Tillerson Pledges Support for Israel

January 11, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, pledged on Wednesday to support Israel as the nation's top diplomat if he is confirmed to the office.

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) asked Tillerson for his views on Israel and the decision last month by the Obama administration to let a United Nations resolution pass that condemned Israeli settlements, which broke with decades of U.S. policy to defend the Jewish state at the U.N.

"Israel is, has always been, and remains our most important ally in the region," Tillerson said. "They're important to our national security."

Tillerson then turned his attention to the resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council, which the Obama administration allowed to pass by abstaining from the vote rather than exercising its veto power.

"I think in the Trump administration, the president-elect has already made it clear, and if I'm confirmed I agree entirely with support [for Israel]," Tillerson said. "We have to recommit–this is in the statements I keep making about renewing and committing that we are going to meet our obligations to Israel as our most important strategic partner in the region."

Tillerson also called the resolution "unhelpful," arguing it will not help bring Israelis and Palestinians together to directly negotiate a settlement for a two-state solution. He then described Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict days after the U.N. vote as "troubling," adding that it undermines the government of Israel.

Trump has said that he wants to move the United States Embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has angered Palestinians as the president-elect has vowed to view Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel. Trump has nominated lawyer David Friedman to be his ambassador to Israel.