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President Bush Speaks to Israeli Knesset - History

President Bush Speaks to Israeli Knesset - History


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President Bush Israel Knesset May 15, 2008

President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world's great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach. (Applause.)
It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. (Laughter.) Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer -- to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. (Laughter.) My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon. (Applause.)
We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.
Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world.
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.
Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. (Applause.) When news of Israel's freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: "For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words."


The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.


My country's admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.


I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall never fall again." Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.


This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It's also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles -- shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.


We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation. (Applause.)

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world. (Applause.)


We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms -- whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli's leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction. (Applause.)

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve. (Applause.)

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.

And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the "elimination" of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant "Death to Israel, Death to America!" That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that "the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties." And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

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. (Applause.)

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you. (Applause.)

America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.

The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.

That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel's founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:

Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved -- a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.

Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn't mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.
This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America's closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.



Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.

Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel's independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar -- the key to the Zion Gate -- and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, "Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day." Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: "I accept this key in the name of my people."

Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless. (Applause.)


George W. Bush Administration: Speech Honors 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Never a man to shy away from a microphone. (Laughter.) Didn’t realize it gets so cold here in Jerusalem in May. Yes, but thanks for coming.

I first want to thank James Snyder and the museum folks for hosting this fantastic reception. (Applause.) Mr. President, thanks for joining us, and Mr. Prime Minister, I’m so honored that you all would take time to be here, as I am. Members of your cabinet, members of the Knesset. We’ve got leaders from around the world who are here to share in this fantastic celebration. Laura and I really wanted to come by and say thanks to our fellow Americans for coming as well. (Applause.)

So I’m driving in the limousine, waving at friendly faces, half of whom seem to be from California or -- (laughter.) I hope you’re having as much fun as we are. It’s been a -- it’s been such a fantastic couple of days for us. And what a fitting way to end with our buddies from the United States of America. You know, Israel has got no closer ally than America, and one of the reasons why is because of the connections between citizens of the U.S. and the citizens of Israel.

And so we’re thrilled to be with you. We’re also honored to be steps away from some of oldest Biblical texts. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to go through the museum. I strongly urge you to do so -- if they open it up for you. (Laughter.) But these documents tell the story of the righteous -- of a righteous God and his relationship with an ancient people. There’s no doubt in my mind that the patriarchs of ancient Israel and the pioneers of modern Israel would marvel at the achievements of this nation. And if you really think about it, I doubt few of the prognosticators would have projected Israel to be what it is today: a modern, thriving democracy in the heart of the Middle East. It’s been an amazing transformation -- of dry valleys to fertile lands. And the new technologies being nurtured here are a great testimony to the truest resource of the Israeli people, and that’s the brain power and ingenuity and drive.

I gave a speech today in the Knesset. It was such an honor to stand in that hallowed hall. (Applause.) One of the things I wished I would have projected maybe more clearly was the fact that this is a land of courageous people -- people who have had to withstand bombings and suiciders, but never lost faith people who have shown incredible resilience. And it’s a nation worthy of our support, and a nation worthy of our friendship.

As I said in my speech, I’m -- I truly believe that if we stay firm in our resolve, resist the temptation to give in to the terrorists, and believe in the transformative capacity of liberty, someday other nations in the region will share the blessings of democracy and liberty. Someday they’ll know that they’ll have governments that respond to the people. They’ll build schools instead of bombs. They’ll not want a war with their neighbors -- but want to live in peace. And that’s the dream, and that’s the hope. And I firmly believe it can come true.

I do want to pay tribute to one brave soul, and that is Liviu Librescu. I don’t know if you remember him, but he was a teacher at Virginia Tech. His folks live in Israel. I bring him up because it was a courageous act of selflessness -- he blocked the doorway to his -- to his classroom with his body to allow his students to escape. And I think it’s a fitting final statement here in Israel for me to make, to say that, isn’t it amazing that a survivor of the Holocaust gave his life for others in the Virginia countryside. And I just want his family to know that we appreciate his courage, and that his legacy lives on.

And so, thanks for coming. Thanks for honoring a great nation and a worthy friendship. I’m proud to be here on Israeli soil as the President of the United States of America. I’m proud to carry our banner of liberty around the world. And I’m proud to proclaim our deep desire for peace.

Thanks for coming. God bless you. God bless Israel, and God bless America. (Applause.)


President Bush Speaks to Israeli Knesset - History

In a speech before the Knesset on Thursday afternoon, US President George W. Bush spoke of a deep US-Israel alliance, praised the Jewish people, and presented his vision of the future Middle East.

In their speeches to the plenum and to President Bush, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud)
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik focused on the Palestinian Authority Katyusha attack in Ashkelon on the day of the President's arrival here.
emphasized the Iranian threat and the Jewish people's rights to Jerusalem, while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert repeatedly praised Bush and his vision for Israel-PA negotiations. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik focused on the Palestinian Authority Katyusha attack in Ashkelon on the day of the President's arrival here.

Itzik began her brief comments by addressing the rocket attack, which injured dozens of people in a shopping center:

"I very much wanted to open this celebratory, important and moving occasion with words of blessing, but since last night I cannot get the pictures of the destruction and devastation in the Ashkelon mall out of my mind. Since last night, I can't stop thinking about the young mother and her baby daughter going to the medical clinic and, in a split-second flash of fire, smoke and debris dust, their lives are changed. Dreams and life aspirations, studies and making a living - cut short suddenly by a deadly rocket fired by Hamas from Gaza that explodes in Ashkelon."

She then directly addressed the US President and said, "Sir, this is not a unique event. This is the reality of our lives in recent years. But that reality will change, because there is a limit to our mercy and tolerance for Hamas. We will respond, and we will respond with a heavy hand."

PM Olmert: 'America's Greatest Gift' is Support for Negotiations
After select words of greeting for "the president of a great nation, the leader of the Free World," and "a true, steadfast and loyal friend of the State of Israel," Prime Minister Olmert dedicated much of the beginning of his speech praising the "deep-rooted friendship between the United States and Israel."

He recounted that America demanded that the gates of the Land of Israel be opened to Holocaust survivors even before the State of Israel was proclaimed that the US was the first country to recognize the Jewish State that America helped financially when Israel "took upon itself the challenge of absorbing hundreds of thousands of destitute Jewish refugees from Europe and Arab states" that the US armed Israel against Soviet-supplied enemies that the US pressured Russia to free Soviet Jews and that "it was American President George Bush Sr. who acted to bring to Israel the masses of Ethiopian Jews in the operation later known as Operation Moses." Olmert also noted America's stance in Israel's defense in international forums such as the United Nations.

"However, today I can proudly say that the relations are no longer based merely on dependence, but rather on cooperation and mutual benefit," the Prime Minister said. "In the fields of trade, technology, research and development there is a true partnership between our countries, a partnership founded on economic considerations, but also on shared values and a world view which attributes great value to the Israeli entrepreneurship and ingenuity."

Further excerpts of the Prime Minister's speech to the Knesset on the occasion of President Bush's visit follow:

"This visit provided another important opportunity for us to discuss the advancement of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in accordance with your vision, Mr. President, of two states for two peoples. Your personal involvement, and the commendable efforts of the Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, is vital for the success of the intensive negotiations taking place between us and the Palestinians."

". There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that confronting the murderous, fundamentalist threat of terror, which is devoid of any moral inhibitions, is the most important challenge currently facing democratic societies across the globe. . The outcome of this confrontation will have far-reaching repercussions on the future and way of life of the Free World. You, Mr. President, will be remembered as the one who courageously, and without hesitation, took the reigns of leadership and stood firmly and determinedly against this formidable challenge.

"The most severe source of threat currently to the stability of the Middle East and to world peace is, as you know, Iran. The danger lies in the pretentious ambition of the regime in Tehran to achieve regional hegemony, its cynical use of terror and religious hatred to further its aims, and its obvious pursuit of nuclear capabilities. The Iranian President's threats to wipe Israel off the map, and the preparations he makes to carry this out through long-range missiles and nuclear capabilities, compel us to be ready to defend ourselves. But the threat is not aimed at Israel alone, and the majority of countries in the region also see themselves threatened."

". On its 60th anniversary, Israel has no stronger desire than to achieve peace with its Palestinian neighbors and other Arab states. Your continued support of the effort to achieve peace and security in our region is America's greatest gift to the State of Israel on its 60th anniversary."

Two Right-Wing MKs , Arab MKs Absent Themselves
In the midst of Prime Minister Olmert's speech, MKs Tzvi Hendel and Uri Ariel (National Union) left the Knesset hall in protest over Olmert's promise that the Knesset would approve an agreement for a Palestinian state. "The Prime Minister is using a celebratory occasion in which we are honoring the President of the United States to emphasize disputes in our society and to promote a political agenda which most of the Israeli public disagrees with," MKs Hendel and Ariel said afterwards in a joint statement.

MK Hendel added that it would be best if Olmert would learn national pride and Zionism from President Bush.

MKs from the Arab parties in Knesset made themselves absent ahead of the special parliamentary session in Bush's honor. According to MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List), "Bush is a dangerous leader and is not worthy of the mantle of Israel's new prophet, as has been presented in recent days."

MK Netanyahu Describes Israel's Three Tasks
Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke just before the US President. He began by summarizing his main themes in English for President Bush and the American delegation.

The following are excerpts of MK Netanyahu's speech:

"Our primary task is to prevent Iran, which declares its intention to exterminate us, from obtaining nuclear arms. More than twelve years ago, in a speech I made as Prime Minister before both Houses of Congress, I said that the greatest threat facing humanity is the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons. Time is running out.

"The second task is to prevent Iran from establishing additional bases around us, such as in Lebanon and Gaza. The unilateral withdrawals just created those terrorist bases, delayed peace and encouraged terrorism. That is what is we see before our very eyes every day with the rocket fire on Sderot, Ashkelon and the communities of the western Negev. This must stop. Faced with terrorism, Israel must change from a policy of attrition to a policy of victory, just as you yourself did, Mr. President.

"And the third task is to bring peace to our region. The State of Israel has been working towards peace since its establishment. Peace will come when the nations themselves see it as a basic human need that allows them to improve their lives. Therefore, we must promote an economic peace today with our Palestinian neighbors. In this way, we will strengthen the moderates and weaken the extremists."

". Even in a permanent agreement, Israel must maintain defensible borders, because only a peace that can be defended will be able to exist in the long term.

"And we will have to maintain something else. It is not simply a matter of secure borders or territory, rather it constitutes an indivisible part of the basis of our existence here – Jerusalem!"

Pres. Bush Delivers the Most Overtly Religious Speech
US President George Bush spoke for almost 25 minutes, delivering a speech filled with references to God, to Israel as the Holy Land and to the heritage of the Biblical patriarchs, as well as to what he characterized as America's unswerving commitment to Israel.

Bush began by joking that he was told it is a rare event "to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time." He noted his regret that Ariel Sharon, who is still hospitalized and in a coma, was not able to be with him.

The following are excerpts of President Bush's addresses to the members of the Knesset:

"We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people: Eretz Yisrael.

"Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world.

"The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

"Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God."

". When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny."

". And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: 'Masada shall never fall again.' Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side."

". We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

"We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms -- whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

"We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli's leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

"We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve. The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time."

". This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.

"And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the elimination of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hizbullah chant, 'Death to Israel, Death to America!' That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that 'the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.' And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map."

". 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. . We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

"Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you."

President Bush went on to describe his view of the Middle East sixty years hence:

"Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved - a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.

"Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn't mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized."

The US leader concluded with an apocryphal story from the time of Israel's founding:

"Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel's independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar - the key to the Zion Gate - and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, 'Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day.' Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: 'I accept this key in the name of my people.'

"Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless."


Israel Matzav

During a special Knesset session in his honor, US president George W. Bush criticizes deadly the tactics of extremist groups, and (most importantly) denounces anti-Semitism, 'especially by those who question Israel's right to exist.'

Not in the video: Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert tells Bush 'future peace agreement based on your vision will be approved by this house and by the Israeli public.'

Here's more from the President's speech:

"Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away," Bush said in his prepared address. "This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of our enemies, and America rejects it utterly. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you."

Bush took special aim at Iran and said the United States stands with Israel in opposing moves by Teheran to obtain nuclear weapons.

"Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations," the president said. "For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

There was only one mention of a timetable for achieving a Palestinian state in Bush's speech and the only reference to the Palestinians came in a passage envisioning the future of Israel 60 years down the road.

"Israel will be celebrating its 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people," Bush said. "The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved a democratic state that is governed by law, respects human rights, and rejects terror.

"From Cairo and Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy, tourism, and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, where today's oppression is a distant memory and people are free to speak their minds and develop their talents. And al-Qaida, Hizbullah, and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause."

"They claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men," Bush said. "No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers."

Bush said that those who carry out such violent acts are serving only their own desire for power.

"They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis," Bush said. "That is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the `elimination' of Israel. That is why the followers of Hizbullah chant `Death to Israel, Death to America!' That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that `the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.' And that is why the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map."

"We welcome today a great friend of Israel… since the establishment of Israel the US has stood by us time and again, and for that we say thank you.

"The beginning of the 21st century sees us facing yet another threat. You have challenged this threat and you are tireless in your fight against terror and tyranny. Israel strives for regional peace in order to strengthen the moderate forces and weaken the radical ones," continued Netanyahu. "For that to happen, Israel will have to maintain its borders. It must be able to protect itself and the future peace."

I wonder how hot it was at Masada.

The full text of President Bush's speech may be found here ( Hat Tip: Memeorandum ).


Bush’s Remarks in Israel Rile Obama

President Bush addressed the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, on Thursday in Jerusalem. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Updated The Obama campaign seized on a section of President Bush’s remarks to members of the Knesset in Israel this morning, interpreting the president’s choice of words as a slap at the Democratic candidate on foreign soil. Senator Barack Obama himself issued a statement, calling it 𠇊 false political attack” and an 𠇎xtraordinary politicization of foreign policy.”

According to an advance text and now televised excerpts, Mr. Bush criticized — without mentioning anyone by name — suggestions for using diplomacy to deal with rogue nations. He specifically cited Iran:

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with 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 only I could have talked to Hitler, all of 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.

Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of our enemies, and America rejects it utterly. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you.

America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. And America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

The Obama campaign just released this statement from the senator himself:

It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power – including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy – to pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.

Now, Dana Perino, spokeswoman for President Bush, denied during a White House press briefing in Jerusalem, that the president had slammed Mr. Obama in the Knesset speech. According to transcript of her briefing, she said:

It is not. And I would think that all of you who cover these issues and have for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that President Bush thinks we should not talk to. I understand when you’re running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you — that is not always true and it is not true in this case.

Earlier in a telephone interview on CNN, Robert Gibbs, the communications director for Senator Barack Obama, called Mr. Bush’s remarks 𠇊stonishing” and an “unprecendented political attack on foreign soil.”

He called it 𠇌owboy diplomacy.” Asked about criticisms, which began during early debates among Democrats when Mr. Obama said he would be willing to meet with leaders of Iran, Cuba and other nations without preconditions, Mr. Gibbs, said “let’s not confuse preconditions with preparation. Obviously these meetings would be full of preparation.”

Mr. Gibbs referred to remarks made this week by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which were published in The Washington Post. “We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them,” Mr. Gates was quoted as saying. “If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can’t go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us.”

(We𠆝 just like to point out the word �mander.”)

I assume he also is going to come home and fire his secretary of defense, who was quoted in “The Washington Post” just yesterday saying, we need to figure — quote “We
need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them.” “Them” being Iran.

Look, we have come to expect and we’ve seen from this administration over the last eight years this type of cowboy diplomacy. Again, we’ve come to expect it, but over the past eight years it’s made this country far less safe than we were. Ronald Reagan once asked Americans whether they were better off than they were four years ago. And I think people are going to ask themselves in this election, are we safer than we were eight years ago under this president? I think the answer is going to be a resounding no.

Mr. Obama has been meeting with Jewish leaders across the country to try to persuade them that he is a stalwart ally of Israel. Our colleague, Larry Rohter, just chronicled Mr. Obama’s stepped up efforts in the last month.

Asked about Mr. Obama’s relationship with American Jews on CNN this morning, Mr. Gibbs said: “Oh, look, I think we have a strong a record as anybody in this race when it comes to Jewish issues. Obviously Israel is our greatest ally in — one of our greatest allies in the world, our principal ally in the Middle East. We have to have a strong relationship with them. It’s unfortunate that an American president chose to fly halfway across the world and make a political attack instead of honoring the tremendous accomplishment and achievement of the 60th anniversary of the birth of Israel.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had long criticized Mr. Obama for suggesting he would meet with leaders of rogue nations without preconditions, batted back assertions made by Senator John McCain that Mr. Obama was a friend of Hamas. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:

Mr. Blitzer: Here is what McCain said about Barack Obama and I want to get your reaction. He said, “I think,” this is McCain, “I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think people should understand that I would be Hamas’ worst nightmare. If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly.” McCain was referring to a statement by the North American spokesman for Hamas endorsing, in effect, Barack Obama. Is McCain right?

Senator Clinton: No, I think that that’s really an overstatement, an exaggeration of any kind of political meaning and I don’t think that anybody should take that seriously.

Mr. Blitzer: Do you have confidence that Barack Obama as president would be a strong supporter of Israel?

Senator Clinton: Yes, I do, I believe that that would be the policy of the United States and it’s been our policy for 60 years.


Joe Biden Calls President Bush’s Speech to Israel Bullshit

Today President Bush spoke to Israel at the Knesset, and said the following:

“some people” believe the United States “should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.”

“We have heard this foolish delusion before,” Bush said. “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.”

Needless to say, this drew the ire of the left who just assumed he was referring to Barack Obama. They came out in full force against President Bush today. Joe Biden even called the president’s remarks bullshit.

“This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset … and make this kind of ridiculous statement.”

Some others who lambasted the president were Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and Barack Obama. Here is what they had to say.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said that Bush “is still playing the disgusting and dangerous political game Karl Rove perfected, which is insulting to every American and disrespectful to our ally Israel. George Bush should be making Israel secure, not slandering Barack Obama from the Knesset.”

“Not surprisingly, the engineer of the worst foreign policy in our nation’s history has fired yet another reckless and reprehensible round,” said Reid. “For the President to make this statement before the government of our closest ally as it celebrates a remarkable milestone demeans this historic moment with partisan politics.”

“There is no escaping what the president is doing,” said Durbin, who supports Obama. “It is an attack on Sen. Obama’s position that we should not be avoiding even those we disagree with when it comes to negotiations and diplomacy.”

Durbin called Bush’s remarks “unfair and really unfortunate.”

President Bush’s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous on the face of it, especially in light of his failures in foreign policy. This is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address and certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced. Unfortunately, this is what we’ve come to expect from President Bush.

Wasn’t it Hillary Clinton that has been criticizing Obama for his willingness to talk to terrorists without any pre-conditions? I think so. I do find it ironic however, that Hillary Clinton mentions comparing Democrats to Nazi appeasers, and is appalled. You know what appalls me? When Dick Durbin, who also threw in his two cents, compared our military to Nazis and Pol Pot. HE COMPARED OUR SOLDIERS TO NAZIS, and that is forgotten.

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

You know what else offends me? When John Kerry, who also chimed in today, claimed that our soldiers were terrorizing Iraqis.

“And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children

Oh the hypocrisy of the left, it makes for great fodder. But the immediate response by Obama and the rest of the high ranking left has to make you wonder. Do they feel guilty about something? Why did they all just assume that the president was talking about Barack Obama? Do they think that what the president said was true about Barack Obama? It sounds to me as though the Democrats have many private reservations about nominating Barack Obamaas he is perceived as very weak on national security. This over reaction just shows us how sensitive the Democrats are about their glaring weakness when it comes to national security.

As far as Joe Biden calling the President’s remarks bullshit, remember he left us with this glittering jewel when describing Barack Obama not all that long ago.

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,”

Nice huh? The first articulate, bright, and clean African-American. Could you imagine the uproar if President Bush had used those terms to describe Barack Obama?

With all that said, President Bush was throwing a dart at the Democrats in general, and it must have hit home if it drew the kind of reaction that it did. Maybe they need to look into the mirror.


Bush Assails ‘Appeasement,’ Touching Off Storm

JERUSALEM — President Bush used a speech to the Israeli Parliament on Thursday to liken those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” to appeasers of the Nazis — a remark widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, who has advocated greater engagement with countries like Iran and Syria.

Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and White House officials said he was not taking aim at the senator, though they were aware the speech might be interpreted that way.

The comments created an angry tussle back home, as Democrats accused Mr. Bush of breaching protocol by playing partisan politics overseas.

The episode placed Mr. Bush squarely in one of the most divisive debates of the campaign to succeed him, as Republicans try to portray Mr. Obama as weak in the fight against terrorism. It also underscored what the White House has said will be an aggressive effort by Mr. Bush to use his presidential platform to influence the presidential election.

“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,” Mr. Bush said, in a speech otherwise devoted to spotlighting Israel’s friendship with the United States.

“We have an obligation,” he continued, “to call this what it is: the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Mr. Obama delivered a quick and pointed response, saying in an e-mail statement to reporters that he had no intention of dealing with terrorists and accusing Mr. Bush of using his visit, timed for the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence, to “launch a false political attack.”

In an interview this week with a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, David Brooks, Mr. Obama addressed the criticism more directly. “I constantly reject this notion that any hint of strategies involving diplomacy are somehow soft or indicate surrender or means that you are not going to crack down on terrorism,” he said.

On Thursday, other Democrats leapt to the Illinois senator’s defense. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, called Mr. Bush’s remarks “reckless and irresponsible.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Mr. Bush had behaved in a manner “beneath the dignity of the office of president.” Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, accused Mr. Bush of violating the unwritten rule against playing politics overseas.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, joined him in taking issue with Mr. Bush. Weighing in from South Dakota, Mrs. Clinton said: “President Bush’s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is offensive and outrageous, especially in the light of his failures in foreign policy. This is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address.”

For Mr. Obama, the stakes are high. Many American Jews and Israelis view him with some suspicion, for several reasons. First, he has said he would be willing to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the leader of Iran, who has called Israel “a stinking corpse” and denies its right to exist.

Second, an official of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, has expressed hope for the Obama candidacy. (Mr. Obama has rejected that statement, and refers to Hamas as a terrorist group.) In addition, Mr. Obama has been endorsed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser, who some Jews believe has an anti-Israel tilt.

Mr. Obama has sought to counter the concerns with actions intended to telegraph his support for Israel, like appearing last week at the Israeli Embassy with a promise to “not only ensure Israel’s security but also to ensure that the people of Israel are able to thrive and prosper.”

In recent weeks, Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has been playing on those worries by suggesting that Mr. Obama has received the “endorsement” of Hamas, a suggestion the Obama campaign hotly denies. On Thursday, Mr. McCain jumped into the fray over Mr. Bush’s remarks and wholeheartedly endorsed the president.

“Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain,” Mr. McCain told reporters on his campaign bus after a speech in Columbus, Ohio.

Asked if he thought Mr. Obama was an appeaser, Mr. McCain sidestepped the question and said: “I think that Barack Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is the head of a government that is a state sponsor of terrorism, that is responsible for the killing of brave young Americans, that wants to wipe Israel off the map, who denies the Holocaust. That’s what I think Senator Obama ought to explain to the American people.”

Thursday was not the first time the term “appeasement” has cropped up in the Bush administration lexicon. In 2006, in advance of the midterm elections, Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld invoked the analogy as a line of attack against critics of the war in Iraq. Then, as now, it was controversial.

Speaking with reporters here, Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said that Mr. Bush’s comment was not a reference to Mr. Obama and that the president was simply repeating his longstanding views.

“I understand when you’re running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you — that is not always true and it is not true in this case,” Ms. Perino told reporters here.

While campaigning for Congressional Republicans in 2006, Mr. Bush did similarly imply that Democrats believed they could “negotiate with these folks,” that is, terrorists.

Mr. Obama’s foreign policy aides said any high-level talks with Iran would have the primary intention of persuading it to end its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, to end its aggressive stance against Israel and to cease its uranium enrichment program. Unlike Mr. Bush, however, Mr. Obama would not make the end of that program a precondition for talks.

(Speaking on Fox News Channel, an Obama foreign policy adviser, Susan E. Rice, said his openness to meeting with Iranian leadership was not necessarily restricted to Mr. Ahmadinejad.)

As for Hamas, Mr. Obama’s aides said his position on engagement was not different from that of the administration the group would have to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and agree to abide by all pre-existing Palestinian treaties with Israel.

And as Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush drew historic parallels to Chamberlain, Mr. Obama and his aides drew some of their own — to President Richard M. Nixon’s cold-war reaching out to China and President Ronald Reagan’s reaching out to the Soviet Union.

Mr. Obama has likened his foreign policy approach to that of the so-called pragmatists in the administration of the first President George Bush, which carried out the first American invasion of Iraq, in 1991, and he has shared those sentiments recently as he has sought to woo independent voters in swing states.

“I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”


Bush speech sparks verbal war

President George W. Bush's speech to the Israeli parliament, in which he warned of the dangers of negotiating with "terrorists and radicals," set off Democratic alarm bells Thursday, with presidential candidate Barack Obama calling it a "false political attack" against him.

The White House insisted that Bush was making no direct reference to Obama, who has urged high-level talks between the United States and some of its longtime antagonists. But the issue resounded on the campaign trail, with both John McCain and Hillary Clinton also weighing in.

Addressing the Israeli Knesset on Thursday, Bush said: "Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," he told the parliament. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of 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."

That senator was William Borah, a Republican of Idaho.

But the senator from Illinois took exception to the president's remarks.

Obama has called for talks with the leaders of Iran and Syria but has staunchly opposed any such meetings with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and which the U.S. and Israel label a terrorist organization.

"George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists," Obama said in a statement, "and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."

McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, joined the verbal fray in Columbus, Ohio.

"This does bring up an issue that we will be discussing with the American people, and that is, why does Barack Obama, Sen. Obama, want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism?" the Arizona senator said.

Obama's campaign fired back.

"It is the height of hypocrisy for John McCain to deliver a lofty speech about civility and bipartisanship in the morning and then embrace George Bush's disgraceful political attack in the afternoon," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Clinton, who has in the past criticized Obama's stand on talking with the nation's adversaries, defended her Democratic rival. Campaigning in South Dakota, she labeled Bush's remarks "offensive and outrageous, especially in light of his failures in foreign policy."

Prominent congressional Democrats such as Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush had delivered partisan political remarks in an inappropriate setting.

"We have a protocol," Pelosi said. "Sort of a custom informally around here . that we don't criticize the president when he is on foreign soil. . One would think that that would apply to the president, that he would not criticize Americans when he is on foreign soil. . I think what the president did in that regard is beneath the dignity of the office of president."

The White House said the furor was an overreaction.

National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe insisted Bush's remarks were "not specifically pointed to one individual" and applied to a "broad group."

Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, also said the comments were not directed at Obama, adding: "I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you -- that is not always true, and it is not true in this case."

President George W. Bush, addressing the Israeli parliament, set off a political debate with remarks that some viewed as critical of Democratic front-runner Barack Obama.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack."

"This does bring up an issue that we will be discussing with the American people . why does Barack Obama, Sen. Obama, want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism?"

"I have differences with Sen. Obama . but I think we are united in our opposition to the Bush policies and to the continuation of those policies by Sen. McCain."


When George Bush, Sr. took on the Israel lobby, and paid for it

George Bush at White House press conference September 12, 1991, defending his move to hold up loan guarantees to Israel. He said he was “one lonely little guy” against “powerful political forces.”

In 1991 President George H.W. Bush held up a $10 billion loan guarantee to Israel over Israel’s continued settlement building. Bush won the battle, but eventually lost the war, a lesson that politicians have remembered ever since…

In its article, “How ‘lonely little’ George H.W. Bush changed the US-Israel relationship,” the Times of Israel reports: “The 41st president beat AIPAC, but lost 24% of his Jewish backing after confronting Israel over the settlements it’s a lesson US leaders since have taken to heart.”

The Israeli newspaper states that Bush “made clear the cost of an American president waging a political fight against the vast coalition of pro-Israel lobbying groups. In doing so, he exposed the limits of what the world’s most powerful man can do” when opposed by Israel partisans.

In 1991 Bush told Israel that the U.S. would not give Israel $10 million in loan guarantees until Israel stopped building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. (Settlements are illegal under international law.*)

Bush stated: “I think the American people will strongly support me in this. I’m going to fight for it because I think this is what the American people want, and I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to back those members of the United States Congress who are forward-looking in their desire to see peace.”

The Israel lobby, especially the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was outraged.

AIPAC head Thomas Dine, 1991. Dine said Bush’s action would be “a day that lives in infamy for the American pro-Israeli community.”

Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper reports: “Thomas Dine, the then-executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, declared that September 12 – when Bush announced he would tell Congress that the request for the guarantees must be deferred for 120 days – would be ‘a day that lives in infamy for the American pro-Israeli community.’

“Dine lamented that ‘this president did what no other president has done: He held a special press conference on this issue and challenged not just congressional efforts to proceed with the guarantees legislation, but Israel’s overall aid levels.'”

Actually, once before, after Israel had invaded Egypt and occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 1956, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower had threatened to cut off more than $100 million in annual US aid if Israel didn’t withdraw. Israel withdrew, but first systematically destroyed infrastructure in the Sinai peninsula, including roads, railroads, telephone lines, and all the houses in two tiny villages.

Israeli tanks during the 1956 invasion of Sinai. Eisenhower forced Israel to withdraw. Before leaving, Israeli forces destroyed roads, trains, telephone wires, and all the buildings in two villages.

But three decades later when Bush was President, the Israel lobby was far stronger, and few dared to go against it.

Ha’aretz states: “The pro-Israel lobby was shocked by the determination of the Bush administration to postpone congressional consideration of the guarantees – which it had carefully crafted with the Israeli government and expected to sail through Congress and then the White House in early October.”

An AIPAC official had predicted that the guarantees would pass “like a knife through butter.”

Ha’aretz reports: “In making his case, Bush pointedly reminded Israel that ‘just months ago, American men and women in uniform risked their lives to defend Israelis in the face of Iraqi Scud missiles,’ and that the Gulf War had ‘achieved the defeat of Israel’s most dangerous adversary,’ referring to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“Moreover, he said, his administration had approved $4 billion in military aid for Israel, representing ‘nearly $1,000 for every man, woman and child,” and had already given Israel ‘millions in loan guarantees’.”

During the onslaught – a thousand Jewish Americans from at least 35 states descended on Congress demanding that the loan guarantees go through to Israel – Bush complained: “There are 1,000 lobbyists up on the Hill today lobbying Congress for loan guarantees for Israel and I’m one lonely little guy down here asking Congress to delay its consideration of loan guarantees for 120 days.”

Bush had long opposed Israeli settlements. His Secretary of State James Baker had told Israel in 1989: “Forswear annexation. Stop settlement activity.”

While the Bush administration offered to guarantee a loan to build housing for Russian immigrants, this offer was contingent on Israel not using the money for construction in the Palestinian Territories. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ignored this condition, and in 1991 Shamir demanded that the loan guarantee go up to $10 billion, even while he undertook what the Washington Post called “the biggest settlement construction program ever launched.”

It didn’t help that Shamir had been a terrorist leader in past years involved in a number of murders. The organization’s charter called for the establishment of a Jewish state ‘from the Nile to the Euphrates’ and the transfer of the Palestinian inhabitants.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1985. Shamir believed Israel had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of every other nation in the world. He defended his terrorism, claiming this was based on a Torah passage: ‘Ye shall blot them out to the last man.’”

After Israel was established in Palestine in 1948 by its founding war, Shamir had become head of the Mossad, claiming Israel had the right to interfere in the internal affairs in every other nation state in the world.

Shamir had often defended his terrorism, once stating: “Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: ‘Ye shall blot them out to the last man.’”

Bush’s temporary win

Bush was highly popular leading up to the fight with the Israel lobby, with a 70 percent approval rating. Eventually, AIPAC and others backed down, and Congress reluctantly went along with the President and delayed the loan guarantees for four months.

This was to prove a short-term win.

While Bush won that battle and Shamir lost his next election bid, so did Bush, and indications suggest that he lost the larger war.

Bush eventually approved the $10 billion loan guarantees when Shamir’s replacement Yitzhak Rabin promised to halt “political” settlements. However, Rabin continued settlement building, increasing the number of settlements by ten percent in two years, and settlement building has continued apace ever since.

Author Donald Neff writes: “Passage of the loan guarantees was Israel’s greatest victory in its decades-long struggle to gain U.S. approval for settlements…. Israel made obvious by its actions that for the first time Washington was acquiescing in employing U.S.-guaranteed funds to build and expand settlements.”

And Neff points out that while Bush managed to push through the loan guarantee delay, “He would pay dearly for it in the presidential campaign. The New York Times reported that Bush’s Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton, received 60 percent of his campaign funding from Jewish sources and that he gained 80 percent of the Jewish vote.”*

While Bill Clinton used the campaign slogan “It’s the economy, stupid,” many analyst feel it was Bush’s confrontation with Israel that doomed his bid for a second term.

Democrats exploit Bush’s stand

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reports that the Democrats supported Shamir and exploited this split between the Israel lobby and the first Bush administration.”

In May 2000, presidential candidate Al Gore told a cheering AIPAC convention: ‘I remember standing up against Bush’s foreign policy advisers who promoted the insulting concept of linkage, which tried to use loan guarantees as a stick to bully Israel. I stood with you, and together we defeated them.”’

The Washington Report notes: “In 1997, Fran Katz, the deputy political affairs director of AIPAC, became finance director of the Democratic National Committee the previous year, the former chairman of AIPAC, Steve Grossman, had become national chairman of the Democratic Party, telling the press, ‘My commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship is unwavering.’

“Clinton also appointed Martin Indyk, a veteran of a pro-Israel think-tank associated with AIPAC, as ambassador to Israel, only a few days after this Australian citizen received his U.S. citizenship papers.”

Politicians learn the lesson

The Times of Israel states: “American presidents have since been cautious to avoid paying for challenging Israel like that — for using their leverage — and none really has, especially not in their first term.

“Clinton made sure to abide by the principle of keeping differences with Israel private and he certainly had differences with Netanyahu during the Israeli premier’s first go-round from 1996 to 1999.

“George W. Bush, the elder Bush’s son, was careful not to criticize Israel during his first term, which took place during the Second Intifada. But after he won reelection, he spoke out against Israel occasionally, including on settlements. He was also the first president to call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

The article concludes: “It was not until the very end of his presidency that Obama allowed the passage of a UN Security Council resolution that criticized settlements, having protected Israel with his veto throughout the first 7.9 years of his time in the White House.

Go here to see a list of American organizations that work for Israel.

“The fact that he waited until his last days in office, despite an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the Netanyahu administration, was a sign that Bush’s hard-learned lesson has continued to reverberate in Washington.”

Today, Israel partisans are working to push through a $38 billion package to Israel, the largest military aid package to a foreign country in U.S. history, and once again we find a Republican opposing it. Senator Rand Paul has placed a block on the legislation at the 11th hour, outraging AIPAC, which has placed Facebook ads against Paul. This time, however, Paul is much more cautious in his statements, perhaps aware of what happened to Bush.

U.S. media have largely failed to tell Americans about the legislation. So far, it appears that the only national news organization to mention it, belatedly, is Politico, which called the massive package “routine.”

While a newly elected Democratic Congressional representative is challenging AIPAC, so far no Democratic senators have joined in Rand Paul’s objection to the AIPAC-crafted legislation.

* Israel’s settlements consist of confiscating Palestinian land and creating a Jewish-only colony. These are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They were opposed by every administration for years and called “an obstacle to peace,” until the Israel lobby became so strong that officials caved in.

A recent memoir about Bush by his friend and associate Marshall Breger published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports:

“George Bush had a principled sense of fairness as well, even when it went against the feelings of the Jewish community. He once invited me to a private lunch in his office, where he spread out a map of Jerusalem and asked me to explain each and every Jewish settlement in the city. He saw such settlement as injurious to the peace process, telling me it was as if two parties were negotiating over a quarry and at night one of them entered and removed stones, reducing its value. I tried to explain the attachment of Jews to Jerusalem, but to him it seemed fundamentally unfair to change the status quo while negotiating about it.”

Bush’s principled stand caused him great harm, causing pro-Israel voters and campaign donors, as well as many in the media, to oppose him.

Breger writes: “Some years later, when he was no longer president, I attended a small dinner party at the Israeli ambassador’s residence. The conversation turned to former President Bush, and the American Jews present spoke of how they reviled him.”

Bush’s attempt to stand up to what he called “powerful political forces” – and Bill Clinton’s decision to go along with them – changed the course of history.

It’s impossible to know how George Bush, Jr. would have acted if this had played out differently.

*The quotes from Donald Neff come from his book Fallen Pillars, U.S. Policy toward Palestine and Israel since 1945, Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington DC, reprint edition 2002, page 161. He cites New York Times, 5 January 1993.

Douglas Bloomfield, writes in Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper:

George H.W. Bush was the first and last presidential candidate endorsed by AIPAC. It started with a handwritten note from Tom Dine, AIPAC’s executive director, to Rep. Jack Kemp (New York), chairman of the Republican Platform Committee at the 1988 GOP convention in New Orleans.

“This is the most pro-Israel platform of any party,” Dine told Kemp, and said he could use it as he wished.

Kemp, a pro-Israel shtarker in Congress, made sure the pro-Israel lobby got what it wanted.

By contrast, Dine and other pro-Israel leaders were uncomfortable with Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. He had a troubled history with the Jewish community (“hymies”) and tried to insert pro-Palestinian language into the Democratic platform a month earlier in Atlanta.

Kemp had become Housing Secretary and was to meet with his Israeli counterpart, housing minister Ariel Sharon, the hard-charging settlement builder who clashed repeatedly with the Bush administration and particularly Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the president’s close friend.

When Baker learned they were to meet at Kemp’s HUD office he ordered the meeting canceled. Kemp later told friends that he protested, arguing that his friendship with Israel would be valuable for Republicans in the coming election, and that Baker told him, “Fuck the Jews. They don’t vote for us.” Baker denied it.

Bush and Baker had a reputation for hostility toward Israel dating to their days in the Reagan administration. During the fight over the sale of the AWACS early warning aircraft to Saudi Arabia, strongly opposed by AIPAC and Israel, pro-Israel Republican members of Congress told me that Baker, the White House chief of staff, warned them that they had to choose “Begin or Reagan.” Begin was Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

When Begin ordered the 1981 bombing of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor, Bush and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger pressed to punish Israel by withholding delivery of F-16s, the kind that bombed Iraq. Reagan’s UN ambassador worked with Saddam’s ambassador to draft the Security Council resolution that unanimously and “strongly” condemned Israel.

Perhaps in an effort to woo the Israel lobby, Dukakis said he would be willing to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as did his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton. Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was a plank in the 1984 Democratic Party platform.

Dukakis never used the term “hymies.” However, opponents tried to connect him to Jesse Jackson, who had once done so.

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President Bush Speaks to Israeli Knesset - History

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 14, 2008

President Bush Meets with Israeli President Peres
Residence of President Shimon Peres
Jerusalem

PRESIDENT PERES: Mr. President, Secretary of State, distinguished delegation, I got permission from the Americans to be -- and Tzipi Livni, our Foreign Minister. I got permission to be all my life an optimist. And you bring with you optimism, so I feel a sort of competition. (Laughter.) But let me say that I know you have elections sometimes, by the end of this year, and maybe there will be a change of administration, a change of guards, I think before you will leave office you will see a change of guards here in the Middle East.

What looks today so gloomy may be the last effort by some very extremist group to remain alive, because it's concentrated, it becomes sharp and clear, particularly in two places. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is simply destroying Lebanon. It's a matter that concerns not only the United States or Israel, it concerns the Arab world. For them, the destruction of Lebanon is the destruction of statehood in many other places. And it's a protest without a message. And the second goes to Gaza, where Hamas is responding to the establishment of a Palestinian state. I think you, and may I say the Secretary of State, invested so much effort to enable the Palestinians to correct the historic mistakes from 1947, because would they then accept an Arab state, we wouldn't have all these troubles. But never the mind, we cannot change the past.

But today the real obstacle, when I consider everything else before creation of the -- the (inaudible) declaration of a Palestinian state is Hamas. And talking with the Palestinians I know that's their view. We are not their enemies, as we are not enemies of Lebanon. On the contrary, I think we would like to see a united, integrated Lebanon, living in peace, who don't have any ambitions neither to their water, nor to their land, nor to their politics. We would like to see the Palestinians living together with such (inaudible) of their life, the separation is a tragedy for them and for the rest of us.

Now the Arab world will have to take a stand, not about the conflict between us and them, but about their own destiny, where are they moving. And that will affect us.

Your eight years were very moving years, for all of us --

PRESIDENT PERES: -- (inaudible), that you can really watch a friendship without any bad mood. And I know that you are not a simple messenger. (Laughter.) But you never interrupted your understanding, your support --

PRESIDENT PERES: -- and really trying to do whatever you, your administration and the lady who is on the State Department really did then to help us negotiate a difficult time.

So for us, it's a celebration not only because we're a little bit older -- 60 years, it's not too much -- but also because we feel that our efforts are not in vain. And it is in this optimistic view I welcome you here.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENT PERES: Thank you.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, it's great to be with you. You're known as a wise soul, and your comments reflect your wisdom. I am delighted to be here for the 60th birthday party. As a person who is 61 years old, it doesn't seem that old. (Laughter.)

But I suspect if you looked back 60 years ago and tried to guess where Israel would be at that time, it would be hard to be able to project such a prosperous, hopeful land. No question people would have said, well, we'd be surrounded by hostile forces -- but I doubt people would have been able to see the modern Israel, which is one reason I bring so much optimism to the Middle East, because what happened here is possible everywhere.

And the objective of the United States must be to, one, support our strongest ally and friend in the Middle East -- the only true democracy against the forces of terror that you just described, and at the same time, talk about a hopeful future.

So I'm really looking forward to my time here. I want to thank you for giving me a chance to speak to the Knesset. I hear it's quite an experience. It'll be a huge honor to represent my country for your 60th birthday. In the meantime we will continue to work toward a vision of -- where people who are just reasonable and want a chance to live in peace with Israel have that opportunity, and at the same time speak clearly about the forces of terror who murder innocent people to achieve their political objectives, and how the world must stand against them.

And so I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and see you again -- and you're looking good. (Laughter.) I hope you're feeling well.


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