Speaking at the Aspen Institute, General James Mattis warned that if the current peace efforts led by John Kerry fail, Israel will have two paths: bi-nationalism or apartheid.

Mattis, the 11th commander of CENTCOM, retired on June 1 after a 45-year military career. His comments at Aspen were uncharacteristically blunt and relatively unfiltered, revealing U.S. military frustrations and perspectives rarely heard from such high-ranking officials:

I’ll tell you, the current situation is unsustainable … We’ve got to find a way to make work the two-state solution that both Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, and the chances are starting to ebb because of the settlements. For example, if I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers to the east and there’s ten-thousand Arabs already there, and if we draw the border to include them, either [Israel] ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.

Mattis also expressed his frustration for the price U.S. military efforts have paid for Washington’s inability to function as an unbiased arbiter in the conflict:

So we’ve got to work on [peace talks] with a sense of urgency. I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and [because of this] moderate Arabs couldn’t be with us because they couldn’t publicly support those who don’t show respect for Arab Palestinians.

Mattis’s words are looking to be particularly prescient as Kerry attempts what many see as a last-ditch effort for the United States to broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Why? The Associated Press reported that Palestinian leaders received, in writing, assurances that proposed peace talks would be based upon pre-1967 borders with land swaps, which is the longstanding U.S. position.

However, that same AP article reported that Western officials have denied such is the case: that ’67 lines would form the basis of negotiations on borders for a future Palestinian state.

We will soon learn whether or not the U.S. government will heed Mattis’s warning, or whether Washington will continue to waffle in sticking to its own stated policy with regard to Israel/Palestine, a waffling that has always worked against U.S.-led peace efforts.

Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG


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