A Senate committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved James N. Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of Defense, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Mattis thus became the first of Trump's Cabinet picks to clear the crucial hurdle.
The GOP-led Senate Armed Services Committee voted 26-1 in favor of Mattis on Wednesday, according to the report. His name next goes to the full Senate, where he’s expected to win easy approval after Trump is sworn in on Friday.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), ranking member on the subcommittee on personnel, was the lone “no” vote, citing concerns about maintaining civilian control of the military as the reason for her vote.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Mattis appeared to deviate from the stated policy of the incoming Trump administration when he said he believes that Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, should be considered the capital of Israel.
"The capital of Israel that I go to, sir, is Tel Aviv, sir, because that's where all their government people are," Mattis said in response to a question by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
It is unclear whether the retired Marine general simply erred in his response, or was referring to Israel’s military establishment, which is headquartered in the Kirya complex in Tel Aviv.
Israel’s seat of government is in Jerusalem, where the Knesset, Supreme Court, and major ministries are all located.
"Sir, right now I stick with the US policy," said Mattis, without elaborating further.
When asked by Graham whether he would “support moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a central campaign pledge of Trump, Mattis answered merely that he would leave the decision to the State Department.
"I would defer to the nominee of Secretary of State on that, sir," he replied.
Mattis in the past criticized the Jewish state over “settlements” in Judea and Samaria and warned the country was at risk of turning into an “Apartheid” state.
During his confirmation hearing Mattis also said the U.S. is “going to have to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” adding that the U.S. also must “restore better relations between Israel and Arab states.”