U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis to Meet PM Netanyahu, Liberman

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is set to visit Israel, where he will be the guest of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. On a tour of Middle Eastern countries, Mattis will come to Israel after having visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Mattis will meet with top staff in the IDF, as well as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

Mattis and Liberman have already spoken at a March meeting in Washington, where Liberman told the American official that Israel needs “an active America in our region.” After the meeting, he commented that “strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. is vital and critical to not only Israel’s security, but also the security and stability of the entire Middle East.” The two also discussed issues such as the ongoing civil war in Syria and the Iranian threat, and they are expected to concentrate on those issues during their upcoming meeting as well.

However, Israeli officials quoted in Yisrael Hayom said that it was “not out of the realm of possibilities” that Mattis would send out feelers for further negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Unlike others in the administration, Mattis is not seen as overly enthusiastic about Israeli settlement activity in Yehudah and Shomron, the officials said. In a 2011 speech, Mattis said that “the current situation between those two peoples is unsustainable. We’re going to have to find a way for a two-state solution. If we do not, then we will continue to see warfare as it keeps the kettle boiling out there.”

In another speech in 2013, Mattis said that Israel was in danger of becoming an “apartheid” state. “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 at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.