While he hasn’t actually been nominated to the position yet, former Centcom commander Gen. James Mattis is being talked up today as the likely “front-runner” for the position of Defense Secretary, a fact which has Israeli media outlets warning about 2013 comments he made critical of the settlement enterprise and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
The comments, made at the Aspen Security Forum, warned that Mattis saw the status quo is Israel as “unsustainable,” warning that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are threatening the two-state solution, and might ultimately make it impossible to keep that as an option.
Mattis was clear that he viewed the settlements as a threat to Israel’s status as a “Jewish and democratic state,” insisting that an Israel which abandons the two-state solution and keeps expanding the settlements would have to face either losing its Jewish majority to the large number of Arabs in the occupied territories, or “you say that Arabs don’t get to vote – apartheid.”
While the general argument about the two-state solution itself is a pretty common one in Israel, mentioning apartheid as a possibility, even if it is by definition, tends to fire up the Israeli right-wing and fuel a furious backlash. This is particularly true on the far-right, where the combination of annexation and Arabs not getting the vote tends to be the go-to solution.