George Bush and Israel -- The Record:
"Far From Perfect"
October 14, 2004
Supporters of the current administration often assert that George Bush is the best president Israel has ever had. While this administration has taken a number of positions that have garnered support among friends of Israel, the Bush record on Israel is far from perfect -- and friends of Israel must be prepared to criticize Bush policies where appropriate. The following facts are also a part of the Bush record on Israel.
"Challenging" Prime Minister Sharon in Front of World Leaders:
** Fact: George Bush said in London, "Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences" (www.whitehouse.gov, November 19, 2003). Such rhetoric is not unusual for President Bush; speaking at the United Nations in September, 2004, President Bush "issued a direct challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," according to the Reuters news service. Speaking before the assembled world leaders, President Bush again said: "Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations"(Reuters, September 21, 2004).
A History of Opposing Israel's Security Fence:
** Fact: George Bush and his administration were opposed to the construction of Israel's security fence, and had threatened to penalize Israel for constructing the fence. Echoing many other Jewish and secular press articles, one press report noted in 2003 that "the Bush administration ... has been pressuring Israel about its fence because the barrier veers over the 'green line,' the old 1949 armistice line, to encompass at least two large West Bank settlements. The administration has said it may deduct what Israel spends on the fence from loan guarantees. ... 'We have made it clear that the fence... is a problem,' Secretary of State Colin Powell told The Washington Post [in October], in language that has been echoed by Bush" (The Forward, October 10, 2003).
Continuing to Oppose the Fence Through January, 2004:
** Fact: George Bush and his administration were clearly opposed to the fence as recently as five months ago, after which President Bush reversed his position. In January, the Forward reported that "Israel is pressuring the Bush administration to omit references to the West Bank security fence from the State Department's annual human rights report. ... The administration is still considering whether it will support Israel's position [on the fence] in front of the [International Court of Justice at the Hague]" (The Forward, January 16, 2004). A week earlier, the Forward explained, "The Bush administration, which takes a dim view of international tribunals but does not approve of the fence, has not yet decided if it would support such a campaign [against the International Court of Justice], several sources said" (The Forward, January 9, 2004).
Both Supporting and Opposing Israel's Targeting of Terrorists:
** Fact: Following Israelâ€™s actions targeting Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in March, White House spokesman Scott McClellan first said on-camera that â€œIsrael has the right to defend herself.â€ But then, according to Reuters, â€œ...in off-camera comments minutes later, McClellan revised the White House position by adding, â€˜We are deeply troubled by this morning's actions in Gazaâ€™â€ (Reuters, March 22, 2004). The same rhetoric was echoed days later by the Bush Administration's Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, John D. Negroponte, who told the UN Security Council that "the United States was 'deeply troubled' by the killing of Sheik Yassin and believed Israel's action had escalated tensions in the region" (New York Times, March 26, 2004).
Recent Sharp Criticism of Israel:
** Fact: In May, the Bush administration had sharp words for Israel, and the administration permitted the UN to pass an Arab-sponsored resolution condemning Israel. One month ago, under the headline "Bush's Support of Israel Falters," the Associated Press reported that the White House "sharply criticized Israel's military operations in Gaza and the United States allowed the U.N. Security Council to condemn the Jewish state. ... [I]n a sudden turnabout, Secretary of State Colin Powell lashed out at Israel, the White House issued a statement criticizing Israel on humanitarian grounds and the United States dropped plans to veto -- or at least weaken -- an Arab resolution at the U.N. condemning Israel for the housing demolitions and the attack on Palestinian demonstrators. By abstaining, as it almost never does when Israel is under assault in the Security Council, the Bush administration permitted the resolution to pass, 14-0" (Associated Press, May 20, 2004).
Retracting Pledges to Prime Minister Sharon:
** Fact: Under the headline "President Bush retracts pledges to Sharon," Israel's Maariv newspaper reported in May that George Bush was stepping back from promises he made to Prime Minister Sharon regarding Israel's borders and the Palestinian right of return: "Despite his warm embrace of Sharon recently, US President George Bush is showing signs of capitulating in the face of pressure from Arab states. In a press conference held following his meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah today (Thursday), Bush called on Israel to withdraw from territories it captured in 1967. Bush also failed to repeat an earlier statement that Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to enter Israeli territory. 'The US will not determine the results of the negotiations,' he noted. ...The Palestinians, however, were very pleased with Bush's speech. Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat said that 'Bush understood that international agreements and direct talks are the guarantee for continuation of negotiations. The Palestinians are very encouraged by Bush's declaration, since only the Palestinians and the Israelis can discuss their conflict and come up with solutions. The pledges Bush made to Sharon are not legally valid'" (Maariv Online, May 6, 2004).
Increasing Pressure on Israel's Leaders:
** Fact: George Bush and his administration are increasing pressure on Israel and its leaders, and many analysts have predicted that such pressure would increase if George Bush is given a second term in office. One Jewish newspaper related last week that on June 10th, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot "predicted that if Bush were re-elected, he would step up the pressure on Sharon, a pressure that Israeli papers chided Sharon for being so unable to resist or defuse.... Yediot ventured that a combination of Bush pressure and further terror would lead more Israelis to support Sharonâ€™s withdrawal plan..." (New York Jewish Week, June 18, 2004). Under the headline "Bush Pushing Israel on Terms Of Disengagement From Gaza," The Forward added the same day, "As Israel prepares to withdraw from Gaza, the Bush administration is laying down a stiff series of expectations that could set the stage for a rocky few months between Washington and Jerusalem, pro-Israel activists say.... The expectations provide much potential for friction.... 'Progress has been too slow,' an administration official said" (The Forward, June 18, 2004).
Initially Opposing Prime Minister Sharon's Disengagement Plan:
** Fact: The New York Times reported in December that "The Bush administration, responding coolly to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's announcement of a possible 'disengagement plan' in the West Bank, warned Israel on Thursday against taking unilateral steps that effectively abandoned the American-sponsored peace plan, called the road map, which would establish a Palestinian state. 'We would oppose any unilateral steps that block the road toward negotiations under the road map that lead to the two-state vision,' said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman" (The New York Times, December 19, 2003).
Refusal to Call Arafat a Terrorist in 2002:
** Fact: The UPI wire service reported in 2002: â€œPresident George W. Bush on Monday said he would not label Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat a terrorist since the Arab leader remained engaged in peace negotiations despite a week of devastating suicide bombings within Israeli cities. â€˜We've got a plan that will lead to peace. It's a security plan called Tenet, it's a political plan called Mitchell. Both sides have agreed to this plan,â€™ said Bush speaking to reporters in the Oval Office. The president said that Arafat's involvement in negotiating a peace settlement was prevented him from designating him a terroristâ€ (UPI/United Press International, April 1, 2002).