For the second time in two months, President Bush has pledged that if necessary the United States would militarily defend Israel against Iran.
Bush continued, “I made it clear, and I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.
The president’s statements echoed those he made aboard Air Force One the first week of February when he told reporters that the U.S. would respond militarily if Israel were threatened by Iran.
“I am concerned about a person [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] that one, tries to rewrite the history of the Holocaust, and two, has made it clear that his intentions are to destroy Israel,” the president said then.
“Israel is a solid ally of the United States [and] we will rise to Israel’s defense if need be.”Asked at that point if he meant the U.S. would come to Israel’s defense militarily, Bush said, “You bet, we’ll defend Israel.”
Political observers were hard pressed to recall a similarly explicit declaration by an American president regarding American military intervention on behalf of Israel.
In fact, after Bush’s initial statement seven weeks ago, there was expectation in some quarters that either the president himself or an administration spokesman would seek to tone down the implications of the remarks.
No such clarification was forthcoming, and the fact that the president felt comfortable expressing similar sentiments this week would seem to indicate that he views his pledge as more than mere rhetoric.
Bush, embattled as never before in his presidency, with plummeting approval numbers and a steady stream of criticism coming from Republicans as well as Democrats on issues ranging from the war in Iraq to the Dubai ports fiasco, has sought in recent days to bolster his image as a strong leader and regain support for his policies.
In the speech in Cleveland, and at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday, the president reiterated his determination to see the war in Iraq through to a successful conclusion.
On Iran, Bush stressed that he was hoping to “solve this issue diplomatically” with a “united message” from the world to Iranian leaders that “your desire to have a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.”