Former Florida governor and putative presidential candidate Jeb Bush distanced himself from newly-appointed foreign policy adviser James A. Baker III on the matter of U.S. policy towards Israel, according to a report in Politico Tuesday.
Baker had addressed the Monday evening gala of J Street, a left-wing, Soros-funded organization that opposes the Israeli government. In his remarks, Baker blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the lack of progress in peace talks with Palestinians, criticized the Israeli leader’s approach to the Iran nuclear deal, and said that no future president would be likely to offer Israel support in the event that Israel decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own.
A Bush spokesperson told Politico that “he disagrees with the sentiments he expressed last night and opposes J Street’s advocacy.” However, there was no indication that Bush intends to dismiss Baker as an unpaid foreign policy adviser.
Aside from his controversial views on Israel, Baker is regarded as a statesman of the “realist” school, which is skeptical of American intervention abroad and believing that America’s long-term interest in the Middle East lies in accommodation with rising powers and existing regimes. As a co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, formed to consider the problems facing the U.S. in Iraq, Baker recommended that the U.S. make overtures to Iran and to Syria while pulling back from the region.
As Michael Doran argued last month in a widely-read essay in Mosaic, “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” Obama used Baker’s foreign policy views and recommendations to inform his own administration’s approach to the region.
Having Baker as a foreign policy adviser might therefore signify continuity with the policies of the Obama administration–the very policies that Bush and other potential Republican candidates intend to spend the next several months attacking on the hustings.