Israeli ministers on Friday hailed US President Donald Trump’s choice of hardliner John Bolton as his new national security advisor, a pick denounced by a senior Palestinian official.
Trump on Thursday announced that Bolton, a former United Nations ambassador and arch-hawk, would be replacing embattled army general HR McMaster in the key position.
Bolton is known for his strong support for Israel and his hostility to the Jewish state’s key foe Iran, and once said the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead.
Ministers from the far-right Jewish Home party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud hailed the selection of walrus-moustached Bolton.
“President Trump is continuing to appoint true friends of Israel to senior positions. John Bolton stands out among them,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home said in a statement.
“The Trump administration is turning out to be the most friendly administration to Israel ever,” she added.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads Jewish Home, tweeted that Bolton was “an extraordinary security expert, experienced diplomat and a stalwart friend of Israel.”
Environment Minister Zeev Elkin of Netanyahu’s Likud echoed his cabinet colleagues, telling Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM Bolton was “unquestionably a friend of Israel for many years, including in his position as US ambassador to the UN”.
In contrast the Palestinians reacted angrily, with Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, slamming Trump’s pick.
“This man has a long history of hostility to Palestinians, dating to when he was at the United Nations, where he was protecting Israeli immunity,” Ashrawi told AFP, referring to US vetoes of UN resolutions targeting Israel.
With Bolton’s appointment, she said, the Trump administration “has joined with extremist Zionists, fundamentalist Christians and white racists.”
“All this will lead to a devastating reality for Palestine and the region.”
– ‘Three-state’ solution –
Bolton was known as a sharp-tongued and controversial UN ambassador during George W. Bush’s administration who virulently defended Israel.
In 2009 he wrote in The Washington Post that the idea of a two-state solution to the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict was “stillborn” and suggested giving the Palestinian territories to Egypt and Jordan.
“We should look to a ‘three-state’ approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty,” he said at the time.
“Any two-state solution based on the PA (Palestinian Authority) is stillborn,” he wrote.
An Israeli state side by side with a Palestinian state has been the widely accepted basis for solving the Middle East conflict for decades, though Trump’s administration has yet to commit to it officially.
Bolton has also praised Trump’s decision, announced on December 6, to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to transfer the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.
“We’ve been living in a delusion by not acknowledging the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he tweeted.
Trump’s Jerusalem declaration outraged Palestinians and broke with decades of international consensus that the disputed city’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.
Israel occupied mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Bolton has also strongly argued for the US to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump said must be “fixed” by May 12 or the United States will walk away.
Israel too has called for the deal between world powers and its nemesis Iran to be changed or cancelled.