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July 27, 2016 / 21 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘bush’

Hiz Onner Ed Koch Dies at 88

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Ed Koch, the pugnacious former New York mayor whose political hechsher was eagerly sought by Republicans and Democrats alike, has died.

Koch, 88, died Friday morning, the New York Times reported. Koch, famous for greeting constituents with “How’m I doing,” presided over New York’s most difficult late 20th century years, from 1978-1989, and helped spur the recovery that would flourish under one of his successors, Rudy Giuliani.

Koch’s third term was mired by corruption scandals and burgeoning racial tensions and after losing his fourth bid for reelection in 1988, Koch retired into a happy existence as a Jewish yoda, blessing or cursing political penitents as he saw fit, and not always hewing to the prescripts of his Democratic Party.

Koch never met a solicitation for an opinion that he didn’t like.

He endorsed Giuliani, a Republican, in his successful 1992 bid to defeat David Dinkins, who had defeated Koch four years earlier, and went on to share — and sometimes take over — the stage at endorsements for other Republicans, including New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Al D’Amato and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He stumped hard for George W, Bush’s presidential reelection in 2004, and was not afraid to tell baffled Jewish Democrats why: Bush had Israel’s back, according to Koch.

Four years later, Republicans hoped to win a repeat endorsement for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but Koch, alarmed at what he saw as Republican plans to degrade the social safety net he had championed as a congressman in the 1970s, instead threw in with Barack Obama.

He proceeded to become Obama’s biggest Jewish headache, lacerating the president with criticism for his perceived coolness to Israel.

“I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel,” he wrote on the Huffington Post in April 2010. “What makes these verbal assaults and distortions all the more painful is that they are being orchestrated by President Obama.”

In 2011, Koch endorsed Bob Turner, a Republican contending what was seen as a safe Democratic seat in a special election, even though his opponent, David Weprin, was both Jewish and stridently pro-Israel.

Turner won and, message sent, Koch watched Obama retreat from criticism of Israel’s settlement policies — and did not hesitate to claim credit for the conversion.

“I believe the recent vote in the 9th Congressional District in New York affected in a positive way the policy of the U.S. on the Mideast,” Koch wrote supporters in an email after that election.

Koch turned away Republican pleas to re-up his attacks on Obama before the last election, and enjoyed telling friends that he had received no less a pleader than Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who made the president’s unseating his mission.

Koch instead enthusiastically endorsed Obama in a long video just before the election — an appearance Jewish Democrats credit with upping Obama’s Jewish numbers in Florida, a critical swing state.

Ron Kampeas

US Mideast Paradox: My Friend who Acts Like an Enemy is my Enemy

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The expression, “With friends like you who needs enemies?” is an apt summary of a major problem for U.S. foreign policy during Obama’s second term.

Here’s the issue: a number of supposed allies of the United States don’t act as friends. In fact, they are major headaches, often subverting U.S. goals and interests. But to avoid conflict and, for Obama, to look successful to the domestic audience, Washington pretends that everything is fine.

Consider, for example, Pakistan. The United States has given billions of dollars to that country in exchange for supposedly helping keeping the lid on Afghanistan—and especially to ensure the Taliban does not return to power—and to fight terrorism, especially al-Qaida.

In reality, Pakistan supports the Taliban, wages a terrorist war on India, and hasn’t been all that helpful in fighting al-Qaida. It would be interesting to see the U.S. intelligence document evaluating how high up in Pakistan’s government was their knowledge that Usama bin Ladin was “hiding out” a few blocks from a Pakistani military complex. The fact that Pakistan threw into prison a local doctor whose work helped find bin Ladin indicates which side that regime is on.

Moreover, Pakistan’s regime is ferociously oppressing the Christian minority, becoming more Islamist, and giving women the usual treatment existing in such societies. Obama claims to be protecting women and religious minorities yet lifts not a finger in Pakistan. And rather than be a force against terrorism, the Pakistani government has been sponsoring a terrorist war against India.

After the horrible massacre of civilians in Mumbai, it became clear that the attack was sponsored and planned by Pakistan using terrorists trained and enjoying safe haven in Pakistan. India was left helpless as Pakistan simply refused to cooperate with the investigation or to turn over terrorists from the group responsible. In short, the United States is massively subsidizing a major sponsor of international terrorism.

Yet for the U.S. government to admit that the Pakistani government is more enemy than friend would make it even more uncooperative and might lead to attacks on the U.S. embassy and diplomats. Pretending that a regime like Pakistan’s is helpful–and continuing to fork over U.S. taxpayer money to it–is a huge temptation. Only if the regime in question does something obviously horrible, and even the bin Ladin case wasn’t sufficient to sour the White House on Pakistan, will the situation change.

Of course, some measures have been taken but basically Pakistan isn’t paying for its behavior. Consequently, it will continue acting in a hostile way, subsidized by the United States to do so.

The scope of this problem becomes clearly visible if you add to this list such places as Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, Venezuela, Bolivia, and several other countries being in a similar situation.

Take Egypt for example. The country is now governed by a radical, anti-American, antisemitic government dedicated to spreading jihad, imposing Sharia law, and driving U.S. influence from the region. It could be argued that a mix of carrots and sticks from the United States would moderate the regime’s behavior. But what if that doesn’t work? The temptation is to continue with the carrots and forget about the sticks.

Obama says that the “red lines” are that the Cairo regime must adhere to the peace treaty with Israel; treat women and religious minorities (that is, Christians) well; and help fight terrorism. But what if it doesn’t? Suppose the Salafist burn down churches and massacre Christians and the government does not protect the minority? Suppose a Sharia regime reduces women’s rights to a minimum? Suppose Egypt declares itself no longer bound by the peace treaty with Israel or pretty openly arms Hamas in the Gaza Strip for an attack on Israel?

Will Obama be prepared for a conflict, even a confrontation, with the Arabic-speaking world’s largest country? Would even a President Mitt Romney do so?

In other words, the argument would be made that it is better to keep giving money, selling weapons, and shutting up about criticism than to make a break. Moreover, the president who did so could be accused of getting the United States into an unnecessary battle and making more enemies. To some extent, that’s what happened with President George W. Bush.

Barry Rubin

The First Plane Out of Benghazi

Monday, December 31st, 2012

It took some 22 hours for American help to arrive in Benghazi after all the t’s had been crossed and the i’s had been dotted and the body of America’s ambassador to Libya had been dragged through the streets by “rescuers” stopping along the way to pose for cell phone pictures with his corpse.

By way of comparison it takes about 16 hours for a boatload of Libyan illegal immigrants to row to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Support for the Americans under fire in Libya would have arrived sooner if a few former members of the Harvard Rowing Team had gotten in one the many rowboats beached on the shores of Lampedusa and pushed the oars all the way to Benghazi.

It says something about the current state of asymmetrical warfare that not only can Al Qaeda throw together a coordinated string of attacks on American embassies around the region without anyone  being the wiser for it, but boatloads of migrants from Libya can reach Europe faster on muscle power than American forces can reach a mission under attack while equipped with jet power.

For that matter, less time passed between the ubiquitous campaign fundraising emails that every American with internet access was barraged by no less than three times a day, than between the Benghazi’s mission first call for help and the arrival of American support. But that night, Obama’s priority was to get to a Vegas fundraiser, not to get American support to two former SEALS fighting and dying in a hellish mess created by his policies.

Obama Inc. blamed the second set of September 11 attacks on a movie, which was giving Al Qaeda credit for not only orchestrating worldwide attacks on American embassies and consulates, but doing it in a matter of days based on nothing more than a YouTube trailer. That would make Al Qaeda one of the more impressive organizations around, but the administration of the perpetual campaign found it easier to give Al Qaeda credit that the terrorist group didn’t deserve rather than accept the blame that it did deserve.

When madmen in America shoot up schools or movie theaters, Obama blames the weapons they used and calls for gun control. When madmen in the Middle East shoot up American consulates and embassies, he blames movies and calls for film control.

The filmmaker was locked up because he was one of those non-union types and none of Obama’s Hollywood friends would complain about a scab that wasn’t in the Producers Guild of America, whose director was not in the DGA and whose writers were not in the WGA being thrown in the slammer for making an offensive movie.

In another time and place, a place called America, an attack on an American diplomatic mission would have been considered an act of war, but the United States had just gotten over fighting a war in Libya, despite denying that any such thing was going no matter how many bombs were being dropped, and that war had led to Benghazi being run by Al Qaeda militias.

Obama assured the nation that the “folks” from the militant militias of Mayberry, Libya  responsible would be brought to justice. After three weeks of trying to get through Libyan immigration and dealing with concerns about conducting a criminal investigation in a war zone, the FBI finally made it to Benghazi, strolled around the compound for a few hours, took some pictures and then went home without interviewing any persons of interest.

An independent commission chaired by an Iranian lobbyist whose members were handpicked by Hillary Clinton conducted a review of what went wrong and found that the State Department probably should not have relied on an Islamist militia affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood for security, especially considering that its members had been going on strike for pay raises.

Four State Department officials resigned voluntarily, which in government lingo means that three of them took administrative leave and the fourth resigned one of his portfolios while keeping the rest. And the media declared that Benghazigate was over at last. Time for everyone to move on and close the book on another one of those Obama success that up close look a lot like failures.

Daniel Greenfield

Settlements Won’t Harm US-Israel Relationship

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Many have expressed concern over the U.S. strong opposition to Jewish construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria. I think the time has come to release ourselves from such simplistic conceptions that insult American intelligence. Most American legislators and policy makers understand that the strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. does not hinge on the Palestinian issue nor on the settlement issue not even on the overall conflict between Israel and the Arab nations. Rather, it is based on mutual and common interests in the Middle East and the world over such as Iran’s nuclear threat,counter- terrorism, missile defense, intelligence-sharing, battle tactics, defense and commercial industrial research, where Israel has a competitive edge over any other country in the world.

In the past two years, anyone who has been witnessing the rise of the Islamic tide on the Arab street recognizes there is no ally in the Middle East or the world over trustworthy and stable, capable, democratic and pro-American unconditionally as Israel. That is the reason the strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. increases despite the differences on – what the U.S. considers secondary issues – like the settlements, the Palestinian problem or even the Arab-Israel conflict.

Israel’s relationship with the U.S. flourishes regardless of who is the President or Prime Minister and whether there is chemistry between them. When my late father, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, was in office, neither Ronald Reagan nor George Bush agreed with his ideology and even threatened to cut off aid to Israel over the settlements issue. Yet during my father’s tenure US-Israel relations were strengthened in an unprecedented manner. They both knew that even if there was no chemistry, you could rely on Shamir when the chips were down. The US knows that Israel is a unique beachhead, of the Western democracies, that must be strengthened and fortified. They don’t view us as beggars but as a very valuable asset – the relationship between Israel and the US is not one – but a two way – street.

Former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig once described Israel as the biggest American aircraft carrier in the world without having to send even one American soldier, one that you cannot sink and is critical to American economic and military interests. If there were no Israel America would have send aircraft carriers with thousands of troops that would cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars. Israel saves the US all that money and work.

Some have also voiced concern over President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Kerry as Secretary of State who is known for his fierce opposition to settlements and views it as the primary obstacle to peace. Many are liable to feel that his nomination will deter Israel from implementing its decision to build thousands of apartments in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and will be viewed as an obstacle to Israel-US relations.

I trust that the new Israeli government after Jan. 22 will not be deterred and will implement the settlement drive as it decided. The claim that only Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria prejudges the outcome of negotiations is not true. Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria – which is dramatically larger than Jewish construction there – presents facts on the ground, just as is Jewish construction.

Western tendency to single out Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria – while ignoring Palestinian construction –prejudges the outcome of negotiations! Israel’s government razes illegal Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. Israel should, also, raze the 1,100 illegal Arab homes built annually in Jerusalem and the thousands of illegal Arab homes in Judea and Samaria.

One must realize that our problem (and that of the US) is not with the Palestinians but with the entire Arab world. First we have to try and end the conflict with the Arab League. Once we succeed in reaching an agreement with it, they will order the Palestinian leadership to concede and they will follow suit. But if no agreement is reached with the Arab world, a peace agreement with the Palestinians alone is unattainable. To adopt a simplistic approach that peace can be reached via an agreement with the Palestinians alone is not realistic.

Yair Shamir

The Schoolmarms Tell the Terrorists to Play Nice

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks….
You’re very well read
It’s well known
Yet something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
–Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man”

The entertainment director on the ship of fools that constitutes so much mainstream analysis of the Middle East—I refer, of course, to Thomas Friedman—has produced a wonderful paragraph that beautifully characterizes the problem, exquisitely expressing a Western mentality that not only makes it impossible to understand the Middle East but even to set up the question in a way people that could help people even begin to confront the truth. So perhaps it is worth disassembling. Sound like fun? Let’s go!

The paragraph is from an article entitled, “Egypt – The next India or the next Pakistan?” And that’s the first problem. Analogies are no substitute to understanding the specific reality of a country and culture, its history and balance of forces that shape the local political culture. You don’t understand Egypt by comparing it to India or Pakistan—very different places indeed—but by examining Egypt itself.

Let me first quote the entire paragraph and then deal with it a bit at a time. Here’s the whole thing:

“Yes, democracy matters. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election. It is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises rather than dictates….More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed under Mubarak — rather than rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the other, which has characterized too much of the postrevolutionary political scene. Elections without that culture are like a computer without software. It just doesn’t work.”

I will now go a sentence at a time.

“Yes, democracy matters.” It is strangely ironic that suddenly democracy has become the main issue shaping the American debate over the Middle East. When President Jimmy Carter in 1978 called for democracy in the Shah’s Iran that call might have played some role in setting off a revolution that didn’t turn out too well. After a hiatus—due in part to that debacle—the democracy issue returned under President George W. Bush. The people who pushed that idea became known as “neoconservatives” and were absolutely loathed, even demonized, by liberals and the Left.

Now this idea that democracy would solve the region’s problems was indeed a bad one, having failed in Iran, been (perhaps unfairly) ridiculed in Iraq, and become a deadly joke in Afghanistan. Yet suddenly the Left adapted the conception of the man they most hated in the world! And nobody in the mainstream debate even remarked on that rather obvious point! Thus, we get the Obama policy based on a Bush idea. Except while Bush’s approach worked acceptably in Iraq because the extremists were defeated militarily, Obama’s approach helped put the radicals into power in Egypt and will soon do so in Syria.

One would think Friedman would continue by explaining that strategic interests are more important for U.S. policy than formal democracy. Nope. Instead, he assumes that democracy is or should be everyone’s goal:

“But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election.”

Whenever an article or editorial contains the words “needs to understand” you know that’s trouble. For one thing this phrase often means that some Western pipsqueak whose most strenuous activity is hailing a taxi is lecturing men ready to commit mass murder and crush their opponents under a hobnailed boot. By the way, the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to heed the advice and will be no worse off for doing so.

Yet this also raises another intriguing issue: Why “must” they do so? Suppose staying in power, establishing a dictatorship, and chopping off various body parts of those who don’t live the way they decree is their goal? Suppose they already know that “democracy is so much more than just wining an election” but couldn’t care less? And what will the columnist, op-ed writer, or editorial scribe do to them if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t heed his advice? Experience shows these people won’t even use mean words in response. What a joke.

Doesn’t Friedman know that Obama’s hero and guru, Turkish Prime Minister Mehdi Erdogan, has said that democracy is like a streetcar and you just have to decide where you want to get off? Hint: You get off as soon as possible after you’ve won the election.

“It [democracy] is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises rather than dictates.”

At this point I must tell a story I once heard from a former member of a motorcycle gang, though I cannot attest to whether or not it actually happened. There was a really dangerous criminal motorcycle gang (it made Hell’s Angels look like Obama’s Ostriches) and the local police decided something must be done. They picked a young policeman to infiltrate the gang and dressed him accordingly.

The undercover cop met the gang and tried to join. Suspicious, they asked him a question: What is the meaning of these ribbons we wear? The symbolism involved various kinds of murder, rape, and various acts I won’t describe for a family audience but each one had a very specific significance. Unfortunately, the policeman hadn’t been briefed on this and after a long pause he answered, “I thought they were just decorations.” I won’t describe his fate.

That is sort of like Friedman and various others thinking they can teach revolutionaries willing to commit genocide how to play nice. They don’t understand the significance of what these radicals say and do. Indeed, they don’t understand that what they say–especially in Arabic–is significant at all.

These tough guys aren’t interested in inclusion, political dialogue, or “surprising” opponents by giving them presents under their tree. No. They are interested in seizing state power and exercising total power. They are ready to order others to martyrdom and in some cases to be martyrs themselves. They are ready to deliberately and coolly order what happened in that Connecticut elementary school many times over. The only limitation on that behavior is a consideration of whether or not it will help their cause.

They don’t care whether the New York Times or some other American newspaper they don’t read is going to scold them. In fact, if they do know what’s in this mass media they understand that no matter what they do they are more likely to have it explained away more than criticized.

Shouldn’t we recognize that reality rather than lecture them on playground comportment?

“More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed under Mubarak — rather than rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the other, which has characterized too much of the post-revolutionary political scene.”

Why does Egypt “need” that? One might argue that it needs such a system to be most effective at being a truly democratic society whose supposed top priority at home is increasing living standards and abroad is living in peace with its neighbors. The full answer to that question lies beyond my space limits but briefly: that might not work in Egypt; the people who think it would work lose all of the elections; if you try to implement such a system you are far more likely to be overthrown or face chaos.

Suppose you have no way to solve your country’s social and economic problems. It then makes more sense to stir up passionate hatred of “the other”; distract attention from your own failings by blaming foreigners for the problems; and engage in aggression abroad so the masses can blow off steam and get some loot. Ironically, this is the kind of thing that Western radicals claim leaders of their own countries have done. It is amazing that they never seem to notice this is how Arab dictators have repeatedly felt a “need” to do in the past.

Also, whatever Mubarak’s shortcomings, there was a lot more dialogue and peaceful arguing under his reign then in any Islamist state or in Syria and Iraq under radical nationalist regimes. This line of argument that is all too familiar from the left in assuming that pro-American dictators are more brutally repressive than anti-American dictators. Usually, the truth is the opposite.

And then at the end, Friedman admits that the post-revolutionary political scene has not been so great. Should this have been a surprise or wasn’t it painfully obvious back in January 2011 what was going to happen? It was obvious to me and a few others but scarcely anyone in the mainstream media pointed out the consequences. And those who dared to be right are practically blacklisted from those places despite having been correct.

The main Western accomplishment of the last two years has been to move from step one to step two in the mainstream interpretation of what’s going on in the Middle East:

Step one: The Islamists will be moderated by gaining power through elections.

Step two: The Islamists should make themselves become moderate after gaining power through elections because they need to do so.

What is needed is an altogether different approach:

Extremist revolutionaries whose goal is to set up regimes that are supposedly implementing the will of Allah—a will no human can question or alter—and who loathe the West, despise Christians, and want to commit genocide on Jews are not going to be moderated. Nor are they going to follow Western instructions on how they should behave. Nor is democracy their ideal, since they don’t believe at all in governance on the basis of the majority unless the majority agrees with them.

These points are all rather obvious, aren’t they? Yet what we have seen for the last two years is not an attempt to understand these realities but rather a series of obfuscations and rationalizations designed to shore up a mythical world that is increasingly diverging from the situation on the ground.

Lewis Carroll wrote the following dialogue for “Alice in Wonderland”:

Alice: “Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
Charles: “I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

The problem nowadays is that an insane interpretation of international affairs seems to be a quality defining who “the best people are.” A man has just been appointed secretary of state for exhibiting a particularly virulent case of this malady.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Barry Rubin

State Says Terrorists Can’t Use Social Media – and You Can Help

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The Office of the State Dept. Spokesperson responded to a question as to whether or not U.S. based social media companies, such as Facebook, violate sanctions if Foreign Terrorists Organizations (FTOs) agree to their company’s contractual agreement before establishing an account.

We received the question by email, along with the DOS answer.

The answer: “This is an issue governed by U.S. law, including laws that regulate interactions with designated entities. For example, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from knowingly providing material support or resources to an entity that has been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“Additionally, it is illegal for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in transactions with an entity that has been designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.”

President Bush signed Executive Order 13224 on September 23, 2001. Executive Order 13224 gives the U.S. Government a powerful tool to impede terrorist funding and is part of our national commitment to lead the international effort to bring a halt to the evil of terrorist activity.

The assortment of Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) lists is ginormous, but to make matters short, download the Complete Specially Designated Nationals List (in PDF format) and just find the first “Abu” (Abu Marzook, a Hamas official, in this case) and proceed from there to search for each name on, say, Facebook. Any active Facebook page run under one of the names on the U.S. ginormous list is grounds for a complaint with the operator and the Dept. of Homeland Security.

There’s a text only version as well.

There’s also SDN Search, an online application to search the SDN list.

Something nice to do with your free time on Chanukah.

Yori Yanover

Back to the Future: A Political Excursion

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

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.

Jason Maoz

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

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