Powered by WebAds

Friday, December 19, 2008

President Bush and the Jews

There was a very interesting piece on Pajamas Media on Thursday regarding President Bush's relationship with Israel and the Jewish community (Hat Tip: Thanos via Little Green Footballs).
When I returned home from the party, a friend had e-mailed me two statements that address this issue. The first came from the head of America’s Reform Jewish congregations, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffe, who delivered his remarks as a sermon at the Union Board Services in Tampa, Florida on December 12th. Reform Jews are as a whole the most liberal politically of all Jewish religious bodies in our country. On various issues, especially social ones, they stand firmly opposed to the Republican Party political agenda. Whether it is gay rights, stem cell research, the fight of a woman to have an abortion if they choose, and questions pertaining to civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, they stand on the liberal side.

Rabbi Yoffe’s remarks were largely a meditation on our current crisis, and the hopes that American Jews shared for the success of the coming Obama Presidency, and their desire for the new President’s success in his endeavors to serve our country. He was particularly concerned for the creation of universal health care, and he urged President-elect Obama not to put its attainment off because of the serious economic issues confronting us.

It was a surprise, therefore, to read these words of Rabbi Yoffe:

And what of the State of Israel? When we look at Israel today, we see a strong state with a reasonably healthy economy. Much of the credit should go to President George W. Bush. He supported Israel’s security needs, provided much-needed military aid, and accepted no excuses for Palestinian terror. The President is under siege right now, but we in the Jewish community must not forget that he has been a good friend to the Jewish State and the Jewish people.”(my emphasis.)


An op-ed by Noam Neusner, a Jewish liaison for President Bush from 2002 to 2005, explained to his readers how seriously George W. Bush was in his commitment. The Jews, Neusner writes, “really do matter to him.” It is not simply a case of pandering to a constituency, one he well knows does not support him politically. “I saw his eyes well up,” Neusner writes, “while watching the Holocaust-themed movie “Paper Clips”…I know how moved he was by meeting with Soviet Jewish refuseniks, Holocaust survivors and the parents of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.” Neusner attended one meeting the President had with Jews from around the world, who now lived in America after years of torment in countries like Cuba, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other bastions of anti-Semitism. As they told him how only in this nation did they find the right to live as Jews, Bush “walked out of the meeting shaking his head, appalled by the special hatred tyrants have reserved for the Jews.”

Neusner understands well that since Bush is a Southern evangelical Republican, it is virtually impossible for him to win over the Jews, and that criticism of him for favoring policies most Jews disagree with is “fair enough.” On foreign policy, some conservative Jews feel he did not do enough to confront Iran- he should have taken military action to stop them move to obtaining nuclear weapons- while others feel he was too bellicose.

But on Israel, Neusner cannot countenance that they see “his leadership on Israel and anti-Semitism” as both “quaint and one-dimensional.” Some take it for granted. “But they should not,” he warns, “be so casual with a friend.” In fact, Neusner argues that Bush was “more Zionist than many Israelis, more mindful of Jewish history than many Jews…and we American Jews can be thankful at least for that.”
During his first term in office, I believe that George W. Bush was the best friend that Israel ever had in the White House. That position started to deteriorate after the 2004 elections as a result of Ariel Sharon's plan to expel Gaza's Jews, and it accelerated even more with the publication of the Iraq Study Group report late in 2006, which brought President Bush back to his roots and to his father's conflicts and political advisers.

Like so much else in this administration, President Bush's initial support of Israel has been sacrificed in favor of a 'legacy.' There's no more 'you're with us or with the terrorists.' No more 'adjustments of borders to reflect reality on the ground' in Judea and Samaria. Instead, President Bush became no different than Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter or his own father - just another President trying to lead Israel to the guillotine to salvage his own political future. And I agree with most of President Bush's position on social issues - the thing that causes most Jews to vote Democratic.

That Eric Yoffe now regards Bush as a friend is not surprising: President Bush has been pressuring Israel to give up its security for the existence of a 'Palestinian' state reichlet in its midst, just like Yoffe wants us to do. And Neusner is spot on about the 2002-05 President Bush, but ignores the change in the President's thinking and policies that took place over the course of his second term.

If you look only at his first term, President Bush has an impressive record of support for the Jews and for Israel. But once you bring the second term into the picture, the picture itself changes. That is a sad legacy for the Bush administration. It's a legacy that causes this right-leaning Orthodox Jew to look back at the Bush Presidency with bittersweet sorrow.


At 8:29 PM, Blogger Mother Effingby said...

I fear your 'friends' will be the death of Israel. It would be best if the US would just let Israel be Israel, and not meddle in your affairs, since it hasn't led to peace. I wonder how peaceful things would be, if Israel still had the Sinai and the West Bank and Gush Katif. Without having to apologize to the world for living in their own country.

At 2:34 AM, Blogger Sam said...

If you give an inch, the Palestinians will take a mile. What more is to be said? It's a crying shame that 70% of the Jewish-American voting populace voted against the continued security of Israel.




Post a Comment

<< Home