ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Bush: Pro-Israel, But... 4.11.04

Bush: Pro-Israel, But...

04 November 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Most Israelis are jubilant that George Bush was re-elected. As the most pro-Israel president ever, Israelis are expecting the same "understanding" for security concerns to continue. But many have short memories. Prior to 9/11 the Administration did not show great sympathy for Israel's confrontatin with terror. Bush and specifically Sec. Of State Colin Powell constantly urged restraint, even in the face of the Dolphinariam Disco (June 2001) and Sbarro Pizza (August 2001) bombings. Arafat was still the partner for peace, Israeli military responses were to be "measured" and there lacked convincing "proof" of Palestinian Authority complicity in the terror campaign.

After 9/11 the Bush Administration began to consider terrorism a universal scourge but still condemned Israel for using "excessive force" when taking retaliatory action against terror strongholds, such as incursions into West Bank cities to capture or kill terrorists. It took until the Karine A' episode of January 2002 where Arafat was caught lying about an arms shipment caught by the Israeli Navy on its way to Gaza for use in terror activities. He denied all, but the facts were otherwise. George Bush hates liars. But even here, after the diastrous month of March 2002 that culminated in the Passover massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Bush was outraged when Israel's Defensive Shield operation to root out terrorism in the West Bank, lasted for more than four weeks. Sharon continued over American objections, explaining that Israel's security would not be jeopardized for anyone.

Only when Israel captured PA documents signed by Yasir Arafat in the Mukata archives attesting to the Chairman's full partnership in funding terrorism (including specific accountings for monies allocated per suicide bomber belt), did the president come down heavily on Israel's side. America's sympathies were further awakened by the US fears of another bin Laden attack and later with the involvement in Iraq.

Bush presented the "Road Map," which despite PA Prime Minister Abu Mazen's (Mahmoud Abbas) best efforts to comply with in the summer of 2003, failed, as he was undermined by Arafat and terrorism. But the US adminstration had great hopes.

Today Israeli PM Sharon is embarking on a unilateral Disengagement from Gaza with US support since there is "no Palestinian partner". This is the preferred scenerio from an Israeli point of view as opposed to the American acceptance of such an eventuality as a "default position". Israelis are fooling themselves if they think that during the next four years the US will not frantically seek out a Palestinian partner for negotiations with Israel. Bush wants a bi-lateral agreement, a negotiated end to the conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian state; not just unilateral Israeli moves.

Bush is on his way in for a second term and Arafat is on his way out. Sharon is beginning to disengage from Gaza, may lose his Likud party in the process and will most likely face elections next year. The US understands Israeli concerns over terrorism and security more than ever before, but Washington has its own interests.

With the growing world terror threat, the second Bush Administration will seek to coordinate policy with Europe more than ever. The EU is demanding massive security and territorial concessions from Israel once a "fitting Palestinian partner" will emerge. Jerusalem must be vigilant not to end up paying the price for a closer Atlantic alliance.