Trump’s Top 3 Contenders for Secretary of State Have Strong Pro-Israel Records
JNS.org — Although it will be some time before President-elect Donald Trump names his cabinet, the three individuals being mentioned as the primary contenders for the secretary of state position — John Bolton, Newt Gingrich and Bob Corker — all have strong pro-Israel records.
In an August radio interview with the “Hugh Hewitt Show,” Trump himself floated the name of Bolton for the top foreign policy position, saying the former US ambassador to the United Nations “is a good man” and would be “seriously” considered. Politico reported this week that Bolton, 67, remains in the mix.
Bolton, who served in both Bush administrations, has been a strong and frequent critic of the Obama administration’s relations with Israel.
After a White House press release was edited to remove the word “Israel” when identifying the location of Jerusalem, Bolton said Obama’s stance on the capital of the Jewish state is “a more radical position than the official position of the United States” and chided the president for sticking “a thumb in the eye of (Prime Minister) Bibi Netanyahu.”
“Obama’s got three more months to insult Netanyahu and demean the state of Israel — this is just another example,” said Bolton, who has also been a vocal opponent of the the Iran nuclear deal.
Bolton played a key role in the successful US effort in 1991 to revoke the United Nations’ “Zionism is racism” resolution while serving as assistant secretary for international organization affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Bolton is currently a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank and a commentator on Fox News. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, DC.
Newt Gingrich has been suggested by NBC News and other sources as a another likely choice. Gingrich, 73, an 11-term Republican congressman from Georgia, served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995-1999.
Gingrich has been a long-time strong supporter of Israel and a critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA). In one 1997 speech from the floor of the House, he said the PA’s execution of Arabs suspected of selling land to Jews “is the kind of action we identify with Nazis…Mr. [Yasser] Arafat, you owe it to the world to stop this kind of killing, to protect people engaged in decent commerce.”
In a 2011 interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich chided the PA for “stonewalling the peace process” and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. He also said he admires Netanyahu both because “he’s a guy who really puts Israel’s security first” and because “he’s a very free market guy who helped create the entrepreneurial boom that has made Israel so successful.”
Finally, according to The Hill, another candidate for secretary of state is Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Corker, 64, charged that the Obama administration “got fleeced” on the Iran deal. He was the author of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which was intended to give Congress a greater say in the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.
Corker criticized Obama for giving up “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, and for effectively agreeing “to move from having [Iran’s] nuclear program dismantled to having its nuclear proliferation managed.” He also urged Obama to reach “a clear agreement with Israel over when and how to respond to Iran’s nuclear program.”
“While our capabilities give us more time,” Corker added. “Israel has fewer capabilities and sees their window closing far more quickly.”
Corker’s voting record on Arab-Israeli issues has earned him a rating of zero from James Zogby’s Arab American Institute. Zogby, who co-chaired the resolutions committee of this year’s Democratic Party convention, is a harsh critic of Israel and American Jewish organizations.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof attempted to throw another hat in the ring for secretary of state this week. “It is perfectly possible that Trump will appoint as secretary of state an experienced Republican like Richard Haass,” Kristof wrote. Haass, 65, was closely associated with Secretary of State James Baker’s policies toward Israel during his years as director of the Near East desk at the National Security Council from 1989-1993.
Newsweek reported in 1992 that Haass authored or coauthored President George H.W. Bush’s most confrontational speeches regarding Israel, including his opposition to loan guarantees for the resettlement of Soviet Jewish refugees in Israel. Haass also raised eyebrows in the pro-Israel community with his June 1997 policy paper for the Left-leaning Brookings Institution think tank, titled “Making Oslo Work.” In that essay, Haass claimed that Israeli construction in Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood was the “impetus” for Palestinian terrorism.
A position for Haass in a Trump administration would be especially surprising in view of Haass’s recent criticism of the president-elect. In a September interview with the New York Observer — published by Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner — Haass accused Trump of “exaggerating the cost” of the current US role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Asked if he believes that Trump’s statements regarding NATO have already “damaged the alliance,” Haass replied, “I do.”
Trump’s choice remains to be seen.