web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Back to the Future: A Political Excursion

George Herbert Walker Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush

Share Button

An incumbent American president who is perceived by many to be indifferent or even hostile to Israel, who makes opposition to Israeli settlements a centerpiece of his Mideast policy, and who seems to share a mutual dislike with the Israeli prime minister faces a tough reelection challenge from an opponent vowing to heal the breach.

The year was 1992. The president was George Herbert Walker Bush, his challenger was William Jefferson Clinton, the Israeli prime minister was Yitzhak Shamir – and while the scenario sketched above bears a marked resemblance to the one we’re living through twenty years later, there is one crucial difference.

* * * * *

As a prep-school student at Phillips Andover, George Bush rescued a Jewish boy named Bruce Gelb from the grip of a bully. (Decades later, Gelb, whose father had founded Clairol, became an important financial contributor to Bush’s political campaigns). As a collegian at Yale, Bush voted for Jews to be allowed into the exclu­sive Skull and Bones Society.

As vice president of the United States, Bush coordi­nated America’s role in the exodus of Falasha Jews from Ethiopia. And as president, Bush had his administration work for Jewish interests on several fronts – as when it helped facilitate the emigration to Israel of hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews; played a crucial role in the rescue of a second wave of Falashas; and strong-armed the United Nations into rescinding the infamous 1975 resolu­tion that equated Zionism with racism.

From everything that is known about him, there is no reason to believe, as some recklessly charged, that George H.W. Bush was or is an anti-Semite. Yet he is fated to be remembered – and deservedly so – as one of the two or three American presidents least friendly to Isra­el.

By most accounts at least some of the blame for the deterioration in U.S.-Israel relations during the Bush years belongs to then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir – not due to any out-and-out duplicity on Shamir’s part but simply because of his cryptic, tight-lipped demeanor. A former Mossad agent, secretive by nature and not given to false diplomatic pieties, Shamir tended to make short, concise statements that were often open to interpretation.

The tone was set in April 1989, when Shamir had his first meeting with Bush. The president, expressing his concern that the continued building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank would take away any Arab incentive to negotiate, suggested in rather strong terms that Israel stop the construction at once. “It won’t be a problem,” Shamir told Bush.

But U.S. officials soon learned from satellite surveillance that no halt had been ordered. Bush, who had chosen to interpret Shamir’s response as a promise to put an imme­diate stop to new settlements, was described by aides as beside himself with anger, convinced that Shamir had played him for a fool.

“For Bush and Shamir, it was a case of hate at first sight,” wrote Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in Friends in Deed, their anecdote-rich account of the American-Israeli alli­ance. “Never in the history of relations between the two countries was there such antipathy – true emotional dis­like – between the heads of government. Even between Eisenhower and Ben-Gurion things were not so bad.”

Bush did make an effort to find some common ground with Shamir. As journalists Michael Duffy and Dan Goodgame reported in Running in Place, a critical account of the Bush administration, Bush repeatedly asked his aides, “How can I get through to this guy?”

The president, wrote Duffy and Goodgame, “pressed assistants for information about Shamir’s hobbies and favorite sports but was told that Shamir had no real inter­ests outside his work and family. Bush tried to bridge the gap by taking Shamir to see a movie at the Air and Space Museum in Washington.”

The movie was a nice touch, but it hardly brought Bush and Shamir closer. The U.S.-Israel relationship was in real trouble because, as Raviv and Melman put it, while Ronald Reagan had always thought the best of Israel, Bush had now come to believe the worst.

* * * * *

By birth a member of the old WASP elite and by occupation (prior to his political career) a Texas oil man necessarily sensitive to Arab concerns, Bush in his feelings toward Israel never came close to the sympathetic under­standing of Lyndon Johnson or the pragmatic admiration of Richard Nixon, not to mention the gut-felt connection exhibited by Reagan and by Bush’s son and namesake during his own presidency years later.

Share Button

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Back to the Future: A Political Excursion”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Who will he take to the dance?
It’s Prom Time, and Abbas Must Choose a Dance Partner – Israel or Hamas
Latest Indepth Stories
Al-Aksa Mosque was claimed to be the site from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven, but it was built nearly 50 years after Mohammed died.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Israeli police enter the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

Imam Suhail Webb who boasted his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to withdraw an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

Text of anti-Semitic flyer distributed to Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on Passover 2014.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

More Articles from Jason Maoz
Bob Grant

What really makes one wonder about the affinity felt by certain Jews for Grant was the welcome mat he put out for some of the country’s most pernicious anti-Semites.

Camelot-112213

With 2013 marking half a century since Kennedy’s fateful limousine ride in Dallas, the current revels are exceeding the revisionist frenzies of years past, with a seemingly endless parade of books, articles and television specials designed to assure us that, despite everything that has come to light about him since his death, JFK was a great president, or at least a very good president who would have been great had his life not been so cruelly cut short.

As someone who for the past fifteen years has been writing a column that largely focuses on the news media, I’ve read what is no doubt an altogether unhealthy number of books on the subject. Most of them were instantly forgettable while some created a brief buzz but failed to pass the test of time. And then there were those select few that merited a permanent spot on the bookshelf.

George W. Bush has been getting some positive media coverage lately, with recent polls showing him at least as popular as his successor, Barack Obama, and a big new book about the Bush presidency by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker (Days of Fire, Doubleday) portraying Bush as a much more hands-on chief executive than his detractors ever imagined.

Readers who’ve stuck with the Monitor over the years will forgive this rerun of sorts, but as we approach the fortieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War – and with the stench of presidential indecisiveness hanging so heavily over Washington these days – it seemed only appropriate to revisit Richard Nixon’s role in enabling Israel to recover from the staggering setbacks it suffered in the first week of fighting.

Shakespeare had it right. The evil that men do indeed lives after them. Case in point: Nahum Goldmann, who served in a variety of Jewish and Zionist organizational leadership posts from the 1920s through the 1970s.

Oscar “Ossie” Schectman, who scored the first basket in the history of the league that evolved into the National Basketball Association, died last week at age 94.

It’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? And yet it seems like the conversation was never really interrupted, as I’ve enjoyed, in the three and a half months since this column last appeared, many an interesting exchange, via e-mail and phone, with some very intelligent readers.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/back-to-the-future-a-political-excursion/2012/10/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: