(JTA) — A former general among President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidates for Defense Secretary once said the United States paid a “military security price” for supporting Israel.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who is known as “Mad Dog,” also said West Bank settlements could turn Israel into an apartheid state.
Mattis met with Trump Saturday at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey
An unnamed official “familiar with the transition process” told CNN that Mattis can be considered a leading candidate for secretary of defense.
When Trump was asked by reporters whether Mattis is a candidate to lead the Defense Department, Trump said, “All I can say is he is the real deal. He is the real deal.”
Mattis ran U.S. Central Command in from August 2010 to March 2013. In that position he had command authority for all U.S. forces in the Middle East.
“I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians,” Mattis said in 2013 at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
At the same forum he criticized Israel for settlement building, saying that the settlements “are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.”
He said the settlements could undermine Israel as both a Jewish and Democratic state and could lead to apartheid.
“If I’m in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid,” he said.
Mattis was an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear deal, which gave the Islamic power sanctions relief in exchange for rolling back its nuclear program.
Also Saturday, Trump met 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for over an hour, fueling speculation that Romney could be Trump’s choice for secretary of state.
Following the meeting Romney told reporters that he and Trump “had a far-reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world.”