Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump appointed John Bolton as his national security adviser – a man who is rabidly opposed to the Iran deal, known as a strong friend of Israel and has stated that the two-state solution is “dead.”
Bolton will oversee a White House national security staff of several hundred specialists, many on loan from the Pentagon, State Department and US intelligence agencies.
The post does not require Senate confirmation.
He will be responsible for advising Trump on a dizzying array of issues, from the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaeda to China’s expanding economic and military power.
The former UN ambassador has applauded Trump’s plan to move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
On Saturday night, right-wing Israeli politicians welcomed the news of the hawkish choice to replace Lt.-Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was seen as a constraining influence within Trump’s inner circle.
Bolton’s appointment sends “an unequivocal message to Iran that the days of the terrible nuclear agreement are coming to an end,” said Kulanu MK and former US ambassador Michael Oren.
“Bolton is known to hate the agreement,” he said.
He added that he expected Bolton to “torpedo” Iranian ambitions to create a Mediterranean empire, and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “will have to think twice before spitting in the face of President Trump or his advisers.”
Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett tweeted: “Great appointment of Amb. John Bolton, an extraordinary security expert, experienced diplomat and a stalwart friend of Israel. Good luck John!”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Bolton is the most prominent among the friends of Israel that Trump has appointed to senior positions.
According to an interview with Bolton by the alt-right website Breitbart News in 2016, efforts to forge a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states for two peoples are dead “just as a matter of empirical reality.”
Bolton’s dismissal of the diplomatic construct has a long history.
In 2014, in the conservative Washington Times
, Bolton seemed to question the very notion of “Palestine” and suggested the territories its people occupy be handed to Egypt and Jordan.
“The only logic underlying the demand for a Palestinian state is the political imperative of Israel’s opponents to weaken and encircle the Jewish state, thereby minimizing its potential to establish secure and defensible borders,” Bolton wrote. “As long as Washington’s diplomatic objective is the ‘two-state solution’ – Israel and ‘Palestine’ – the fundamental contradiction between this aspiration and the reality on the ground will ensure it never comes into being.”
But White House officials told The Jerusalem Post
that the selection of Bolton does not speak to any change in the president’s position in support of a comprehensive resolution to the conflict.
The president’s peace team, led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt, his special adviser for international negotiations, is putting final touches on the administration’s plan, which is likely to follow the contours of a two-state agreement.
An administration official told the Post
that Bolton’s appointment does not change the direction or contents of the plan in any way. But Bolton will occupy a coveted seat at the table going forward, as the president makes critical decisions on his peace effort.
Palestinian officials criticized the Bolton pick on Friday
, calling him a racist hostile to their cause.
Bolton is known as a colorful figure in Washington and an inveterate bureaucratic infighter. On his desk at the State Department during the administration of former Republican president George W. Bush, he kept a defused hand grenade.
His 2007 memoir is titled Surrender Is Not An Option. His favorite targets for criticism include Iran, North Korea, the United Nations, European governments and international treaties.
In 2003, on the eve of six-nation talks over Pyongyang’s n
uclear program, he lambasted then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a speech in Seoul, calling him a “tyrannical dictator.” North Korea responded by calling Bolton “human scum.”
Like Trump, Bolton did not serve in the Vietnam War, instead joining the Army National Guard.
Bolton’s sometimes abrasive style got him in trouble with the Bush administration. One incident that came back to haunt him was his reported dressing-down of an intelligence analyst who questioned him over whether or not Cuba had an advanced chemical and biological weapons program.
During his 2005 confirmation hearing to become UN ambassador, State Department intelligence chief Carl Ford called Bolton “a serial abuser” and “a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.”
The Senate never approved Bolton’s nomination. Bush instead appointed him to the UN post for 17 months via a process known as a recess appointment that bypasses confirmation.
In a Fox News interview on Thursday
, after news of his appointment broke, Bolton appeared to temper his often harsh rhetoric. “Frankly, what I have said in private now, is behind me, at least effective April 9
,” he said, referring to the date he is scheduled to take over from McMaster.
Europe is particularly concerned by Bolton’s appointment and Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Iran deal by May 12
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian are set to arrive in Israel early this week to discuss their reservations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also opposes the deal.
In Seoul, conservative lawmaker Kim Hack-yong also expressed concern about Bolton’s appointment, ahead of a planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“This is worrisome news. North Korea and the United States need to have dialogue, but this only fuels worries over whether the talks will ever happen,” Kim said. “If Bolton takes office and talks with North Korea go haywire and yield bad results, I don’t know what we’ll do then.”
Judging by his Twitter feed, Bolton is more hawkish on Russia than his new boss.
While dismissing allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin, Bolton has been outspoken about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced new nuclear weapons on March 1, Bolton responded with trademark bellicosity.
“There needs to be a strategic response to Russia’s new nuclear missiles to show our allies in Europe that we will not let #Russia push the US or its allies around,” he tweeted.Reuters contributed to this report.