George W. Bush

Bush-41, Bush-43,
and the American Jewish community

Here is an excerpt from the 2007 book
The Lost Years: Bush, Sharon, and Failure in the Middle East
by Mark Matthews.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.

Chapter 1
Repair Work
■ 1990s

On November 9, 1994,
the day after winning his first election as governor of Texas,
George W. Bush walked into his campaign’s Houston headquarters
and spotted Fred Zeidman,
a friend, Republican fundraiser, devoted supporter of Israel,
and advocate for Bush in the Jewish community.
[Note that since January 2007 Zeidman has been
“National Vice Chair for Jewish Outreach”
for Senator McCain’s campaign for the presidency.]

“The very first thing he said to me,
after I congratulated him on being elected governor, was,
‘Now let’s go to Israel.’
He wanted to go to Israel.”
Zeidman recalled his own surprise nearly a dozen years later,
sitting in the Washington office he then occupied
as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
“He’s always had this absolute passion for Israel.
And I said,
‘Great, no problem, we’ll arrange it,’
and then I immediately called Matt Brooks
[who headed what is now called the Republican Jewish Coalition].
I said,
‘The governor wants to go to Israel.’ ”

Zeidman wasn’t alone in believing that
Bush had a special feeling for the Jewish state.
Through words and actions over the next decade
Bush would persuade a number of American Jews and Israelis
of his rock-solid commitment
to protecting Israel and, in tandem with that,
to securing the future of the Jewish people.

Over time, the sheer repetition of the
pledges of support for Israel,
condemnations of anti- Israel terrorism, and
willingness to defend Israel against nuclear threats from Iran
would make them a part of Bush’s public persona.
Explaining why he supported Bush’s reelection as president in 2004,
former New York City mayor Edward Koch, a Democrat, said,
“There’s no question that George W. Bush
is the most supportive president
in terms of support for Israel and its security needs.”

How much of Bush’s attitude stemmed from political calculations
is hard to know,
because the man is almost indistinguishable from the politician.
As the scion of a political dynasty,
Bush absorbed politics from early manhood
and became one of the shrewdest political practitioners of his generation.
Throughout his career, he has displayed a knack
for emphasizing those parts of his life or character
that carried political appeal among constituencies whose support he seeks.
Bush’s plain-spoken drawl draws from his early boyhood in Midland, Texas,
rather than the elite East Coast accents and speech patterns
heard among relatives and at prep school and college.
Similarly, he communicates his Christian faith
in a way that makes him appear to be the soul mate
of the Republican Party’s growing base of conservative evangelical believers,
rather than what he is—
a member of the mainline and relatively liberal United Methodist denomination
[like Hillary Clinton].

But for a man seeking to redeem his family’s political stature,
what Bush told Zeidman wasn’t strange.
Just two years had passed
since Bush had seen his father defeated by Bill Clinton
in a campaign dominated by the early 1990s economic recession,
but also haunted by a bitter confrontation in 1991
between the elder Bush and American supporters of Israel.
[This story is also recounted at length in my post
Jews versus Bush-41,
especially as told by J.J. Goldberg.]

George H. W. Bush, president between 1988 and 1992,
had the least comfortable relationship with Israel’s government
of any American president since Dwight Eisenhower.
Determined to achieve a breakthrough
in ending a half-century of Arab-Israeli conflict,
he engaged in a months-long tug-of-war with the Israeli government,
dominated by the right-wing Likud Party,
which was then still determined to expand Jewish settlement
in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem,
all territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.
To Bush, the settlements represented a serious obstacle to peace.
Faced with defiance from then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir,
the elder Bush resorted to financial pressure,
first delaying and then attaching restrictions on
the loan guarantees Israel was seeking
to house hundreds of thousands of Jews arriving from the former Soviet Union.

When, in September 1991, the Israel lobby attempted an end run,
dispatching hundreds of its American supporters to Capitol Hill,
Bush took them on as well.
Summoning the news media, he [accurately] portrayed himself as
“one lonely little guy down here” up against
“powerful political forces” and “something like a thousand lobbyists.”
[See Goldberg’s description here.]
As top aides winced, he said,
“I think the American people will support me>”

He recounted what his administration had done for Israel:
“Just months ago,
American men and women in uniform risked their lives
to defend Israelis in the face of Iraqi Scud missiles, and indeed,
Desert Storm, while winning a war against aggression,
also achieved the defeat of Israel’s most dangerous adversary.
And during the current fiscal year alone,
and despite our economic problems,
the United States provided Israel with
more than $4 billion in economic and military aid,
nearly $1,000 for every Israeli man, woman, and child, as well as with
$400 million in loan guarantees to facilitate immigrant absorption.”
He didn’t mention that Israel,
going against its military doctrine of swift and fierce retaliation,
had bowed to pressure from the White House
and avoided any response to the Scud attacks.

Bush aides felt especially peeved at Ariel Sharon,
who, as housing minister,
not only pressed ahead full tilt with settlement construction
but publicly opposed American plans for an international peace conference
that would open direct negotiations between Israel and the Arabs.
Sharon said Bush was falling into an “Arab trap”
aimed at stopping immigration to Israel.

The pressure from the elder Bush worked.
The pro-Israel lobby retreated.
Brent Scowcroft, the president’s national security adviser,
felt Bush had sent a “useful signal
that he wouldn’t be deterred by lobbyists, however powerful.
The U.S. administration prevailed in launching a peace process
that ultimately led to an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough in 1993
and an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty the following year.

But many American Jews never forgave the president for the tone of his remarks,
which to them came painfully close to
questioning their patriotism and
reviving the anti-Semitic stereotype
of an all-powerful, manipulative interest group.
His harsh words undercut the goodwill he might deservedly have won for
helping hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews and thousands more Ethiopians
to move to Israel;
defeating and seriously weakening one of Israel’s worst Arab enemies,
Saddam Hussein; and
campaigning to undo
the infamous 1975 United Nations General Assembly resolution
that labeled Zionism a form of racism.


“When the president stood up and said, I think incorrectly
[for the numbers, see this],
in the loan guarantees,
‘I’m one guy here against a thousand lobbyists,’
no matter what he did from there,
he could never do anything right,”

Matthew Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition,
said in a 2005 interview.
[So nothing else mattered to Mr. Brooks,
nothing as significant as supporting
Israel’s illegal and immoral apartheid policy
in the territories Israel conquered in 1967.]

Brooks could quote the former president’s stinging words
almost verbatim a decade and a half after they were uttered.

Israel’s ambassador to Washington during that period,
Zalman Shoval, also felt the White House lash after complaining publicly,
in an interview with Reuters correspondent Alan Elsner in early 1991,
that his country was getting the “runaround” on U.S. financial aid.
The ugliest episode of that period was
a furor over a quote attributed to Secretary of State James A. Baker III
in a newspaper column by former New York mayor Koch.
Koch wrote:
“When Baker was criticized recently
at a meeting of high-level White House advisers
for his belligerent attitude toward Israel
[how dare Secretary of State Baker
try to rein in U.S. support for Israel’s settlements!]
he responded,
‘F— ’em. They [the Jews] didn’t vote for us.’ ”
The account was vehemently denounced as “garbage” by Baker’s spokeswoman,
but a similar quote was reported by New York Times columnist William Safire,
who claimed to have two high-level sources who’d heard it.
To many Israelis and American backers of Israel,
the words accurately summed up the Bush-Baker attitude—
even if they were never uttered.
As Ehud Olmert, then a cabinet minister, told Israel Radio,
“I can only judge the issue by the report and its denial.
I have no way of knowing whether he said such words or not.
I have no doubt that the current administration
is not sympathetic to Israel
and does not count on
the support of the Jews in the U.S. domestic political arena.”

While the Jewish electorate is too small to be decisive in most national elections, it can be an important factor in a close contest
because of a few swing states with relatively large Jewish populations.
Jews vote in high numbers
and play an active and important fundraising role
in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
By the fall of the following year,
the elder Bush’s reelection campaign was in trouble, the victim of
a slow start, bad organizations, and, most important, a weak national economy.
Struggling to repair the damage he had caused in the Jewish community,
he told a B’nai B’rith convention in September 1992,
“There may even be issues where you and I will take opposing sides
and things may get hot and words may be exchanged.
In the past, I’ll never forget this one,
some remarks of mine were, I felt, misinterpreted.
I have gone on the record expressing my regret
for any pain those words caused.
Again I want to make it clear,
I support, I endorse, and I deeply believe in
the God-given right of every American to promote what they believe.
It is your right as an individual.
It’s more than a right.
It’s your duty as an American citizen.”
He also reflected the personal hurt he felt in being labeled an anti-Semite.
“[T]o accuse those
who may come to different conclusions on one or another public issue
of harboring anti-Semitism
is to cheapen the term.
That is dangerous. That is deeply wrong.
And when those words, without justice, have been aimed at me,
I can tell you, they cur right to the heart.”

The late repair effort failed.
From winning 30 percent of the Jewish vote in 1988,
Bush dropped to 12 percent when he lost to Bill Clinton four years later,
a change widely attributed to the White House clash with the pro-Israel lobby.
Neither the elder Bush nor his son has said much publicly about
the dispute with Israel and its political ramifications.
But George H. W. Bush told an audience at Tufts University in 2003:
“I remember refusing to give Israel loan guarantees for settlements,
if they continued to build settlements in the occupied territories.
I said, ‘We’re not going to do it.’
And I paid a hell of a price for it….”

The lesson was not lost on his son.
Scowcroft recalled,
“I came to the conclusion that
he thought his father had caused himself some trouble.”

The elder Bush, by coincidence [!!],
was the third president in recent years,
following Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford,
who both clashed with Israel and failed to win reelection.

George W. Bush jokes good-naturedly about his lackluster college grades.
But he was a keep student of politics
who made a special effort to understand
what was important to various constituencies.
Doug Wead,
who acted as liaison to conservative Christians for the first President Bush
and also befriended George W.,
recalled the son drifting to sleep one night when Wead read the Bible with him.
But on another occasion,
“When I did a twenty-page paper on evangelicals in Texas, he just lit up,”
Wead said.
Bush devoured even the minute details of the polling data.
“He said, ‘This is the missing piece. All I needed for Texas,’ ”
the former adviser said.

Bush took a similar approach in trying to understand
how his father had lost support among Jews.
“We spent lots of time talking about it.
I’ve said to him over and over again—way before he was president—
that his father got a very bad rap,”
Zeidman said in the 2006 interview.
“President Bush 43 understood very well his issues in the Jewish community.
And arguably, the Bush family relationship in the Mideast ...
I mean, that was the problem that 43 had when he was running.
Everybody thought he was his father’s son.

“Over and over and over again, the president said,
‘What was the problem with my father?’
I said,
‘Wasn’t the problem with your father,
it was the problem of our community.
Our community basically feels

if you don’t do everything that our community wants—
and they don’t even know what that is—
that you’re against us.’

Brooks had similar conversations with the future president.
“What was it about my dad’s administration
that hurt us in the Jewish community?
What didn’t resonate?”

he recalled being asked by George W.
The query stemmed
“more from a political science-sociological point of view
rather than a father-son point of view.
He was particularly dispassionate about the subject,
so far as there wasn’t a lot of emotion.
He was just trying to intellectually understand.
It’s not, ‘Why are they beating up on my daddy?’ ”

Brooks’s own assessment was that there had been
“a tremendous failure of communication.
They just never quite understood
how they could communicate to the Jewish community.
They had a tin ear on how to communicate to the Jewish community.”

The problem wasn’t a failure to communicate,
it was an unwillingness to pander.
The Jewish community simply will not allow Israel to be pressured.
Any American politician who advocates pressuring Israel
will (politically) die.
If you deny that, where, among 535 members of Congress,
is the exception?]

He says he explained to George W. Bush that

“the Jewish community is a community
which listens for every nuance,
which listens for every code word,
which listens to how elected leaders say things,
to look for signals and hidden messages—

more so probably
than any other community and constituency in the country.
You either know how to calibrate your language
to communicate at that level
or you don’t.
People who are particularly good at it are rewarded with great friendship,
and people who don’t....”

Brooks didn’t complete the sentence.

The younger Bush made his own verbal misstep.
In a 1993 interview in Dallas,
Bush told of asking the Reverend Billy Graham
to referee a discussion with his mother over a passage in the New Testament.
Based on the text,
Bush argued that only people who accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior
could expect to go to heaven.
Barbara Bush disagreed.
Graham urged both of them not to attempt to play God.

Bush’s view may have matched the beliefs of many evangelical Christians,
but it offended Jews.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith,
later indicated that Bush had rebuffed
his attempts to get him to correct the damaging impression.
“We had exchanges a number of years ago which went nowhere,”
Foxman told the Austin American-Statesman in 1998.

Despite the younger Bush’s expressed eagerness to visit Israel,
four years would elapse from the time of his conversation with Zeidman
before he found it politically convenient to make the trip.
“There was a lot of pressure one him as governor of Texas
not to leave the state....
We couldn’t arrange the trip for a while because the state of Texas—
everybody in your profession [journalism]—
was watching his every move and felt like
he ought to be at home running the state
and not out running around the world,”
Zeidman said.

Many state governors, and even some mayor, make the argument that
foreign trips are necessary for them to promote commerce
which will benefit their jurisdiction.
That’s the argument anyhow.
(The cynical think its just an excuse for lobbyist-paid junkets.
Two recent mayors of the District of Columbia, Marion Barry and Anthony Williams,
made numerous foreign trips using that as their rationale.)]

Improving ties with American Jewry
was clearly on Bush’s mind in January 1998,
when Foxman met with him in Austin, the Texas capital,
and mentioned the 1993 interview.
“When I was in Texas and visited with him, he raised the issue.
He said, ‘Listen, I have this problem.’
I said, ‘You need to deal with it,’ ”
according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The governor’s political calculations coincided with
a movement within the Republican Party away from the policies of Bush’s father,
which were aimed at
forging a lasting peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors
and stressed a balanced attention to the needs of all parties.
By late 1998,
while the Clinton administration pursued much the same approach
to hopes of a comprehensive settlement
involving Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria,
the return of a conservative Likud government to power in Israel
had deepened a split in the American Jewish community.

American Jews who backed the peace process continued supporting Clinton,
and Jews remained overwhelmingly Democratic.
But those who shared the Likud’s distrust of Arab intentions
increasingly turned to the GOP.
Zalman Shoval, still active in the Likud,
made frequent visits to Washington and kept in touch with out-of-power Republicans.
“People in the political desert appreciate it when diplomats don’t neglect them,”
he said.
A vocal and intellectually powerful group of Republican neoconservatives,
both Jews and gentiles,
recoiled at
attempts by the Clinton administration to humanize Yasser Arafat’s image
and the modest pressure he exerted on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
They viewed the Clinton policies
as a tilt against Israel and towards appeasement of Palestinians.

Instead of Arab-Israeli peace talks,
GOP hawks campaigned in the media and in Congress for a new Middle East strategy:
completing the job left unfinished
when the elder Bush went to war against Iraq—
ousting the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, ties deepened among
right-wing Israelis,
conservative American Jews, and
the evangelical Christians who were exerting ever-greater influence within the GOP.

Three events in January 1998 crystallized the trend
and provided an important backdrop to Bush’s trip and his future campaign.
In mid-January 1998,
Aaron Miller, one of the State Department’s most determined advocates of Israeli-Palestinian peace,
sparked a furor with his suggestion that
Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum extend a VIP invitation to Arafat—
both as a gesture of reconciliation
and as a way of acquainting Arafat with the horrors of Jewish history.
Miller had the clout to suggest the visit, not only as a prominent diplomat,
but as a State Department representative to the museum’s board.
His family, prosperous Cleveland real estate developers
were also major donors to the museum.
The idea produced a bitter split within the board,
led to the firing of the museum’s director,
and caused the board chairman to flip-flop,
first rejecting special treatment for Arafat and then issuing an invitation,
by which point Arafat bowed out of the visit.
Among those outraged at the invitation
was prominent neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer,
who called it an “act of desecration.”

Arriving in Washington a few days later for meetings at the White House,
Netanyahu moved immediately to highlight his own links with the Christian Right.
To what the New York Times described as “thunderous applause,”
he joined a rally of Voices United for Israel,
featuring the Reverend Jerry Falwell, one of Clinton’s harshest critics,
who compared the prime minister to conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
On the dais sat Morton Klein,
executive director of the Zionist Organization of America,
a veteran lobbyist against concessions to Arafat
and a strong supporter of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories.

Then, on January 26, advocates for a tougher policy against Iraq
coalesced around a public call on Clinton to make regime change a top priority.
In an open letter to the president
sponsored by the Project for the New American Century,
led by neoconservative guru William Kristol,
the group urged Clinton to
“enunciate a new strategy
that would secure the interests of the United States
and our friends and allies around the world.
That strategy should aim, above all,
at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.”
Signers included future advisers to the Bush campaign
and key members of his administration.

More than an appeal to Clinton,
the project’s manifesto marked an early salvo in the struggle
to shape the foreign policy of the next Republican administration.

Bush never shut out more moderate views.
Early in the planning stages of his campaign he invited Rita Hauser,
who would cochair his campaign in New York,
to Austin for a meeting with other supporters.
A wealthy international lawyer
who was close to Scowcroft and leaders of the Israeli Labor Party,
Hauser had been a pioneer among American Jews
in promoting a dialogue between the United States
and the Palestine Liberation Organization
in the late 1980s.

“Maybe I wanted to hear, but I certainly heard it, as did others,
at least when he was getting ready to run,
he was going to pursue a realistic foreign policy,
something like his father’s,”
she recalled in a 2005 interview at her office off New York’s Fifth Avenue.
“Certainly I had very high hopes
that he would be somewhat as his father and Baker were
in trying to get a balanced approach to the Palestine-Israel problem,
by pressing on both sides to do what was required
and that was to resurrect in some measure the Oslo process,
which was languishing, since neither side was respecting it,
and move forward on a negotiated basis.”

As the campaign progressed,
it became clear Bush would approach the Middle East and the peace process
differently from Clinton.
Dov Zakheim, a campaign adviser and national-security expert
who would later become Pentagon comptroller under Bush, said,
“Most people thought Arafat was a problem.”

The campaign itself avoided criticizing
Clinton’s last-ditch struggle to broker a peace agreement.
“I personally had a lot of misgivings about it;
many people did, thinking they were rushing something,
that Arafat wasn’t going to agree,
but we didn’t [criticize]
because we wanted to convey to both Arab Americans and Jewish Americans
that our Middle East policy was bipartisan,
in that all we’re trying to do is get peace for the region,
and if Clinton could pull it off, good luck.”
Still, Zakheim told Jewish groups he spoke with,
“ ‘If you want to measure the difference,
count how many times Bush is going to invite Arafat to the White House
as opposed to how many times Clinton did.’
I told that to Jewish groups ... throughout the campaign.”

Hauser would go on to become a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, chaired by Scowcroft, during Bush’s first presidential term.
The prestigious post gave her the chance, on occasion,
to press her views on the Middle East conflict
in conversations with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
It also allowed her to compare U.S. intelligence on Iraq
with the way the threat from Saddam Hussein
was being portrayed publicly by the Bush administration.
She refused to support Bush’s 2004 reelection.

[End of excerpt from Lost Years.]

Miscellaneous References


Wall Street Journal vs. America
By Patrick J. Buchanan
The American Conservative, 2003-11-03

[All but the inessential beginning; emphasis is added.]

The mega-issues on which the Bushes [41 and 43] abandoned conservatism
for the Hong Kong values of the Wall Street Journal are
  • free-trade globalism,

  • open-borders immigration, and

  • Wilsonian interventionism.

Unlike the patriarch Sen. Prescott Bush,
George H. W. and his son are free traders
who simply cannot see the industrial ruin before them
from a decade of NAFTA, GATT, MFN for Beijing,
and U.S. subordination to the Yankee-baiting Eurocrats of the WTO.

But the returns from 10 years of free trade are in.
America is running huge trade deficits with
Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and the EU.
Manufacturing jobs have been disappearing at the rate of 83,000 a month
every month Bush has been in office.
Under George W., one in every six manufacturing jobs has vanished.
Is there no amount of bleeding of jobs
that will jolt Mr. Bush into grasping that
the Journal’s free-trade fanaticism
is denuding his country of its industrial base
and could kill his presidency, as it did his father’s?

The second issue is immigration.
For years, the Journal has pushed to amend the U.S. Constitution to read,
“There shall be open borders.”
The Journal wants to tie the hands of the President and Congress
to guarantee that the Third World invasion of America is unstoppable.
Yet, mass immigration is bankrupting California,
as millions of poor immigrants have poured in
and millions of middle-class Californians have fled
to Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho.

Ten million illegal aliens now live here....
As California is fast becoming a Third World state,
America is becoming a Third World country.
Why is President Bush welcoming this radical transformation of America
into a giant replica of the UN General Assembly?
What was so wrong with the country we grew up in?
Can the Bushites not see the consequences of blindly following Journal ideology?

The third issue on which Bush II has embraced Journal neoconservatism
is foreign policy.
For a decade after Desert Storm, containment had worked with Saddam.
Iraq had not invaded a neighbor
nor launched a single terror attack against Americans.
Yet, no sooner had the World Trade Center towers fallen
than the Journal was shrieking for strikes on
“terrorist camps in Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria,
and perhaps even in parts of Egypt.”
This was warmongering.
None of these countries had anything to do with 9/11.

After the overthrow of the Taliban,
the Journal began beating the drums for the war it always wanted
and the cause it never abandoned:
“On to Baghdad!”
Impose a “MacArthur Regency”!
Now we have Baghdad and the Bremer Regency.
And if Mr. Bush cannot extricate us from
this new war of suicide bombings and sniper shootings
we warned him would follow a U.S. invasion,
he may not be re-elected.

What President Bush and many conservatives do not realize is that
the Wall Street Journal is to true conservatism what Eisner is to Disney,
a cow bird that flew in to sit on the nest another bird built.

Journal editor emeritus Robert Bartley once told author Peter Brimelow,
“I think the nation-state is finished.”
In June, Bartley flew to Italy for the 10th Santa Colomba Conference
hosted by Journal guru Robert Mundell.
Topic: “Does the Global Economy Need a Global Currency?”

“World money, with a world central bank, seems a next logical step,”
chirps Bartley,
who dreams of a New World Order currency replacing the U.S. dollar.
Yet, as Margaret Thatcher told this writer,
a nation that gives up its currency
gives up its sovereignty and independence.

Time to say it:
Loyalty to the New World Order is treason to the Republic.
But why is Bush blindly following the counsel of faux conservatives
leading him down a path that ends in the abolition of America?
Why, Mr. President?


Uh Oh, the President’s Reading Again
by Jim Lobe
Antiwar.com, 2007-03-19

Bush the Neoliberal
By Richard Cohen
Washington Post, 2007-05-29

[An annotated excerpt appears here.]

A question that seems remarkably little explored (I wonder why?)
by the MSM is:
To what extent were
the people who financed George Bush’s business and political careers


Bush Begins Peace Effort Bonded With Olmert
New York Times, 2008-01-10

They share an enthusiasm for sports, fitness and the occasional cigar.
They are both unpopular leaders,
scarred by terrorism and
zealous in their warnings about the threat of Islamic extremism.
And yet they profess grand ambitions
to accomplish what other leaders have failed to do for decades:
make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel have in two years
forged the sort of empathetic relationship
that Mr. Bush had with the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon,
and one that many in Israel and the United States
thought unlikely to be repeated when Mr. Olmert came to power.

On Wednesday, as Mr. Bush arrived in Israel for his first visit as president,
the bond between the men was clearer than ever.

Bush Recalls 1998 Trip to Israel
Helicopter Tour Given by Sharon Left Lasting Impression
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post, 2008-01-10

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

An interesting account of Bush’s 1998 trip is provided in a new book,
Lost Years: Bush, Sharon and Failure in the Middle East,
by Mark Matthews,
a former diplomatic and Middle East correspondent for the Baltimore Sun.

As described by Matthews,
the November trip was arranged by
several prominent Republican Jews with close ties to Bush,
including Florida developer Mel Sembler
and Houston business executive Fred Zeidman.


Those close to Bush believe
the trip made a very strong impression on the future president
and would bond him to the future Israeli prime minister --
and, in the view of Bush’s critics,
would ultimately tilt the United States away from
its role as a more independent broker of Middle East peace.

“The fact is, when he got back from that trip,
he said it was absolutely one of the most meaningful experiences of his life,”
Zeidman said in an interview.
“He truly got an understanding of Israel and Israel’s security,
the result of which is no one has ever been more steadfast in support of Israel.”

Speaking of the helicopter trip, Zeidman said:
“That really cemented his resolve on the security of the state of Israel.
When he got back, he said to me Sharon was a man he could trust.”

Bush’s 2008-05-15 Knesset “No Appeasement” Speech

President Bush Addresses Members of the Knesset
Speech by President Bush
to the Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel
White House, 2008-05-15

Bush Speech Criticized as Attack on Obama
New York Times, 2008-05-16

[It is really sad that the forty-third American president
is such a toady and yes-man to Zionist expansionism and aggression.
He says history will prove him right;
well, that will be true, to the extent history is written by
those who are indifferent to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
And I am quite sure that doing the bidding of rich Jews is a “royal road”
to a wealthy post-presidential life.
George Walker Bush brings new meaning to the term “brown-noser”.]

Bush's speech to the Knesset added insult to all the Palestinians' injuries
Daily Star (Lebanon), 2008-05-16 (Friday)

[The full text (download from Lebanon is lengthy);
paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

US President George W. Bush’s speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday
generated near-immediate controversy in the United States
for all of the wrong reasons.
Within hours,
Senator Barack Obama, the likely Democratic nominee for president,
had accused Bush of taking a political swipe at him
by ridiculing those who advocate dialogue with Israel’s enemies
as embracing a “foolish delusion” based on “appeasement.”
By the end of the day,
both Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain,
were falling over themselves in their effort to best one another
in proving their pro-Israel credentials.

All the while,
Bush, Obama and McCain demonstrated a sickening insensitivity
to the plight of the 11 million Palestinians
who have endured unjustifiable horrors for the last 60 years.

As Bush delivered his speech,
just a few kilometers away in the Occupied Territories,
as well as in neighboring states,
Palestinians and their Arab supporters
were observing the Nakba, or catastrophe,
of the loss of what was once the homeland of the Palestinian people.
After 60 years, the Nakba has only worsened.
Scores of those who were driven from their homes in 1948 and 1967
still live in refugee camps across the region
along with their children and grandchildren.
Millions still have no official citizenship,
meaning that ordinary activities like visiting relatives,
getting a job or going to university are beyond reach.
Millions more are being forced to endure malnutrition, starvation, early death
as a result of “collateral damage“ and countless other forms of collective punishment.

[The counterargument is that much of the humanitarian suffering
could be alleviated by Arab governments.
But there are two counters to that:
  1. Why is it the responsibility of the Arabs to pay for
    remediating the suffering caused by Israel?

  2. Beyond humanitarian suffering, there is the issue of
    where those displaced persons should go.

During his address, Bush made no mention
of the ongoing suffering that resulted from Israel’s creation,
and instead
invoked the terminology of the most ardent Zionists,
using phrases like the “homeland of the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.”
Even hard-liners, like
Likud member Silvan Shalom and
National Religious Party chairman Zvulun Orlev,
noted that

the speech was uncannily similar
to those of the most ultra-religious leaders in Israel,

many of whom are staunchly opposed to the idea of a peace agreement
that would result in the creation of a Palestinian state.
Bush spoke of
the unimaginable plight of Jews in Europe nearly half a century ago,
but made no mention of the modern-day anguish of Palestinians.
He did briefly manage to offer up a vision of a Palestinian state
that might one day exist - in 60 more years.

Bush claimed to be speaking in the name of 300 million American citizens
when he delivered his address.
Are we to believe that the American people openly advocate
the continued denial of the most basic human rights for the Palestinians?
Is it not more likely that they believe
the “matchless value of every man, woman and child,” to use Bush’s words,
also applies to people who happen to be Palestinian instead of Israeli?
Wouldn’t many of them want the people of Palestine to be mentioned if they
“insist that the people of Israel
have the right to a decent, normal and peaceful life,
just like the citizens of every other nation?”

Already Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has sought to capitalize on Bush’s bias
by portraying the United States as an enemy of the Arab and Muslim peoples.
Were it not for the ongoing tragedy of the people of Palestine,
along with the new tragedies unfolding in Iraq under Bush’s watch,
ideas like bin Laden’s would probably get little or no traction in this region.
But unfortunately,
Bush has made the work of people like bin Laden that much easier -
and thus he has made America and Israel much less safe.

A Two-State Solution for the United States and Israel
by David Bromwich
Huffington Post, 2008-05-18

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

We are slowly leaving the Bush presidency.
Can we leave it fast enough for the safety of the world?

George W. Bush thought it would be a good idea
to help Israel celebrate its 60th birthday.
So he showed up to celebrate,
in spite of the gross contradiction his presence there offered
against an appearance of impartiality
in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine --
an accord whose success the president has said he intends to show
as the diplomatic legacy of eight years in office.

In his speech to the Knesset,
President Bush praised Israel in familiar and effusive terms.
He also threatened Iran almost to the point of implying that
Israel’s birthday present from America would be
a war against Iran initiated by the U.S.
Finally, and strangely, he went out of his way --
in violation of a decorum observed
by previous American presidents on foreign visits --
to attack a political rival in the United States.

Senator Biden, Barack Obama, and others
were quick to respond to the charge that
talking (not giving things away) to a hostile country
must constitute ‘appeasement’;
but the coat-trailing use of the word, meanwhile,
caught the attention of the press;
and Chris Matthews, interviewing a talk radio shouter,
was led to some characteristic rumblings:

‘You think it was fair to go overseas and take a shot at a fellow American?...
Why is Israel now the center of the Republican Campaign?...
Why the focus on Israel?....
Why are we turning Israel into Hyde Park Corner?’

The questions are pertinent and not easy to answer.
Why has Israel become
the place to test an American politician for loyalty and strength?

Loyalty to what and strength about what?
Something about the American view of Israel,
and his own exaggerated version of it
[Get real. Bush is no more loyal to Israel
than the typical American politician,
and certainly no more than
any presidential candidate whom the press will take seriously]
made George W. Bush believe he could get away with
the provocative words he used and the graceless choice of an occasion.

In the American mind today, Israel stands for a policy of
benign chauvinism,
justified preemptive war, and
provisional domination of the Middle East:
the very policy the Bush administration
has sought to graft onto the United States,
while borrowing Israeli army rules of engagement for use in Iraq.
Doubtless the unpopular president felt a certain exhilaration and nervous release
in cutting down a member of his family (nationally speaking)
in front of another family.
But there was a personal as well as well as a generic reason for it.

Probably Israel today seems to George Bush
a friendlier place than most of America does.

It is, to him, a sort of fifty-first state,
a good deal like Texas but cleared of the protesters.

One might end here, merely observing that, not for the first time,
George W. Bush acted below the dignity of his office.
Yet his defects were forgiven by his hosts;
and that is not where the interest of the occasion lies.

When an American of such high visibility
speaks without inhibition of American divisions to Israelis,
one is made to reflect on
the extraordinary censorship exercised by the American mainstream media
against all allusion to the current political controversies in Israel.
For example, the Israeli divisions over
the oppressive treatment of the West Bank Palestinians.
The word ‘appeasement’ was misused by the president;
but why should we not use it accurately?
Why should Americans not follow the Israeli opposition,
and speak of

the appeasement by successive Israeli governments
of the fanatical sects of settlers
who seek to dispossess the Palestinians of their lands?

Condoleezza Rice broke the silence once.
On a visit in October 2007, she said
the sufferings of the West Bank Palestinians reminded her
of the civil-rights struggles of American blacks in the South.
Indeed, as Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar show in Lords of the Land,
the more thuggish settlers in cities like Hebron
have enjoyed many of the privileges
that Americans associate with white gangs in the Jim Crow South --
a routine of harassment and ad-hoc violence against an inferior caste.
The Israeli government acts
as the federal government of the United States would have acted
if it had said it could not move against the gangs
because ‘these are our people.’

Israel, Munich, and appeasement came up again when John McCain said,
of Barack Obama’s willingness to speak with diplomatic representatives of Iran,
that one must never negotiate with anyone who calls Israel a ‘stinking corpse.’
But why should political thought be silenced and action obstructed
by the trash talk of a small-time dictator?
[Actually, I don’t think Ahmadinejad is a dictator.]
Demagogues say many things.
It is in their nature not to be in a position to mean everything they say.

Nikita Khrushchev spoke for world communism in direr terms than these
when he addressed to Americans the words: ‘We will bury you.’
Khrushchev went beyond calling his enemy a stinking corpse.
He acknowledged that we were still alive,
and said we were going to be turned into a corpse,
and declared that he would be the one to do it.
And Khrushchev actually held the levers of power in the Soviet Union --
something that cannot be said of Ahmadinejad in Iran.
Yet President Eisenhower negotiated with Khrushchev,
and President Kennedy negotiated with him, too.
The idea that
all contact with a hostile country that is not war,
is therefore necessarily appeasement,
is a poisonous offshoot of the Bush dogma which says
‘If you are not with us you are against us.’
Palestinians oppressed by Israeli settlers and looking anywhere they can for help
are neither with the United States nor against us.
If we treat them as enemies, they may well become enemies.

Another piece of the Bush doctrine --
a piece borrowed from Ariel Sharon,
which John McCain seems poised to inherit --
is the idea that
wars always improve the stature and increase the power of a warrior nation.
Six years into the American occupation of Iraq,
this ought to have become questionable.
Yet John McCain’s advisers on foreign policy
are, to a man, neoconservatives --
supporters of the Lebanon as of the Iraq war,
and disposed to flatter the militarism
that is the most consistent trait of McCain’s political temperament.

Israeli opinion covers a far wider range than American neoconservatism.
In the Cooper Union debate on the ‘Israel Lobby’ controversy,
in September 2006,
the former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said that
the United States had become a Colossus --
‘an intrusive colossus that is hated throughout the Arab world,’
because of its support for the Arab autocrats.
The solution, Ben-Ami implied,
was not for the U.S. to intrude still further into the affairs of the Middle East
but to change its course and resist the promptings of organizations like AIPAC.
He wondered why so many American lawmakers were intimidated by the lobby,
since the most it could do was to stop someone from getting elected,
and, where a public good was concerned,
not to be elected or re-elected might seem a small sacrifice
for a politician whose duty is to tell the truth.

Bush’s Bizarro World
by Ted Galen Carpenter
National Interest online, 2008-05-19

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The invocation of the shopworn “appeasement” slur, however,
is not the most-troubling aspect of Bush’s argument.
There are three other, even-more-serious problems with his reasoning.

the president equates merely talking to adversaries with appeasement.
But appeasement implies far more than just dialogue.
It requires the willingness to make far-reaching
and (by implication, at least) utterly unwise concessions.
There is no evidence that
Obama or other advocates of dialogue with repressive regimes
are necessarily prepared to make such concessions.

[Carpenter neglects to explain the (in my opinion, erroneous) thinking
of those arguing against negotiations:
That merely to talk to, say, Hamas or Hezbollah or Iran is a
“far-reaching and (by implication, at least) utterly unwise concession.”
But he does counter that view in his next paragraph.]

It is extremely worrisome if the president believes that
it is improper even to talk to adversaries.
That would rule out diplomacy as a meaningful component of foreign policy.
It is no challenge at all to negotiate with
friendly, democratic countries like Australia or Denmark.
But we don’t have the luxury of engaging only with friends.
The real challenge for diplomacy is
negotiating with, and getting results from, prickly or odious regimes—
in many cases, regimes that we wish did not exist.


Bush’s linkage of “terrorists and radicals” like political conjoined twins
shows sloppy thinking,
and it certainly obscures more than it illuminates.

Such a blanket category conflates
two difficult but different foreign-policy challenges facing the United States.
It probably would be pointless to open a dialogue with
terrorist nonstate actors like al-Qaeda.
But negotiating with important countries,
however repulsive we might find their regimes,
is another matter entirely.
Whether we like it or not,
Iran is a crucial player in the Persian Gulf region—
and, indeed, in the entire Middle East.
There will be no progress on an array of troublesome issues
without Iran’s involvement and cooperation.
Syria may be a lesser power,
but it too is an actor that cannot be ignored.

Conflating such disparate issues as
those posed by nonstate terrorism and adversarial states
is as shortsighted as
the blunder U.S. policymakers committed during much of the cold war,
when they failed to understand
the divisions in the ranks of international communism.
That policy blindness made Washington slow to exploit the Sino-Soviet split,
it led to the absurd assumption
that the communist regime in North Vietnam
was a mere puppet of Moscow or Beijing.
We paid dearly for such myopia.

By the same token,
Iran’s Shia fundamentalism,
Syria’s Baathist socialism, and
al-Qaeda’s violent Sunni extremism
are not merely parts of one amorphous Islamic Threat.

President Bush needs to sharpen his thinking,
and he needs to move beyond
simplistic, emotionally toxic allegations about appeasement.
The American people deserve better.

[For a source of such a simplistic unified view,
see 2008-05-05-Diehl-Iran.]

Appeasing Bush
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Future of Freedom Foundation, Hornberger’s Blog, 2008-05-19

Bush's True Calling
An American president in Israel
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-05-19

[Its beginning:]

The unseemly spectacle of an American chief executive
denouncing a Democratic presidential candidate in a foreign venue,
in front of the parliament of a nation
whose interests are inextricably intertwined with the issue at hand,
has no precedent in our history.
It’s as if, say, Lyndon Baines Johnson had journeyed to South Vietnam
and attacked the antiwar movement as “appeasers”
before an audience of that country’s rulers.
In our Bizarro World universe, however,
where all moral and political values have been stood on their heads,
this is what passes for “patriotic” and “pro-American” activism
on the part of our chief executive –
upholding the interests of a foreign nation over and above your own.

After hailing the history of the fight for Israeli sovereignty
minus any mention of the Nakba,
and without so much as obliquely referring to
the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories,
the president hit at his political enemies back home:

“Some seem to believe that
we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals,
as if some ingenious argument will persuade them
they have been wrong all along.
We have heard this foolish delusion before.
As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared:
‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler,
all this might have been avoided.’
We have an obligation to call this what it is –
the false comfort of appeasement,
which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”


One has to wonder why an American president
would take to the hustings in a foreign land
and champion that nation’s interests over and above our own.

Bush Plays the Hitler Card
by Patrick J. Buchanan
Antiwar.com, 2008-05-20


[Here is an excerpt from Bob Woodward’s The War Within, published in August 2008.]

[pages 212–3]
[Woodward claims to quote from
“[D]ictated notes from the Iraq Study Group’s record, dated November 12, 2006.”
Bush is being quoted here, but the emphasis is added.]

“If I didn’t think it [being in Iraq] was worth it, we would leave.
We need to win an ideological victory.
I am not making excuses, but we cannot improve in the short term.
This is worth it because of the consequences….
Your report can make a significant contribution here,
if you deal with the tendencies towards isolationism in the country.
There is an attitude in the country—
‘Let’s get out.
Let’s protect our trade.
Let’s keep immigrants out.’

We need to deal with the psychology of engagement in international affairs
and position this country so it remains a leader.
The United States has to take the lead on all these tough issues,
or it just won’t get happen.”

[Nothing wrong with being a leader,
but one may argue whether the course on which Bush has set is the right one.]

Labels: , ,