On the heels of its 60th birthday celebrations, President Bush visited Israel this week, marking his second and last presidential visit to the Middle Eastern state.
While mainstream national newspapers argued as to whether Bush's visit avoided or affirmed key issues in the nation, Israeli bloggers had their hackles raised by the President's address to the Knesset, Israel's house of parliament.
Checkpoint Jerusalem's Dion Nissenbaum writes about “What Bush Didn't Say”:
Bush didn't use his historic address to the Knesset to talk about what is supposed to be a top priority for him in his final year: The peace process he officially launched last November in Annapolis.
He didn't use the address to speak directly to the skeptical lawmakers who will be asked to support any peace deal with the Palestinians.
He didn't use the address to speak directly to the Israeli public and urge them to support a peace deal with the Palestinians…
Still, in many ways, Bush's decision to completely avoid talking about the peace process was seen by some as a squandered opportunity.
Israel Matzav's Carl in Jerusalem is among those who interpreted Bush's remarks about terrorist appeasement of Hamas as an attack on US presidential candidate, Democrat Barack Obama.
President Bush launched a sharp but veiled attack Thursday on Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats, suggesting they favor “appeasement” of terrorists in the same way some Western leaders appeased Hitler in the run-up to World War II…
“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,” Bush said at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem.
“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 â€” the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”
The remarks seemed to be a not-so-subtle attempt to continue to raise doubts about Obama with Jewish Americans. Those doubts were earlier stoked by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee in the 2008 presidential election, when he recently charged that Obama is the favored candidate of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which the U.S. government has listed as a terrorist group.
Also on Carl's mind is the President's future relationship with Israel:
Deep in his heart, I believe that President Bush loves this country. I still blame Condi [Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice] and Bush Senior [President George H. W. Bush] for all that has happened in the second term. Yesterday, we saw a flash of Bush's true feelings. I suspect we'll see more when he is no longer in office (just as we saw Dhimmi Carter's true feelings – against Israel – much more after he was no longer in office).
During his short stay, Bush also appeared at the international President's Conference in Jerusalem. Fugitive Peace's Gideon Lichfield listened to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's welcoming speech with split ears:
Iâ€™m feeling pretty cynical about the Bush visit, and not just because getting around Jerusalem has been impossible (again)… [During] Olmertâ€™s speech of welcome at the conference hosted by [Israeli President] Shimon Peres, I found myself adding subtitles sotto voce…
â€œIt gives me great pleasure to offer a special welcome to the President of the United States of America, George W. Bushâ€”a great personal friend whose commitment to the State of Israel is immeasurable.â€
Youâ€™ve taken three days out of your last year in office to party here with the presidents of Poland, Albania, Togo, Burkina Faso and Palau. You must really have bugger-all to do back in Washington.
â€œYou are an unusual person, you are an unusual leader and you are an unusual friend of the people of Israel.â€
Iâ€™ve met some freiers [suckers] in my time, but you take the biscuit…
â€œMr. President, in 2004 you said that America as a â€˜nation is stronger and safer because we have a true and dependable ally in Israelâ€™.â€
You must have been on drugs. Frankly, you need us as an ally like you need a hole in the head.
â€œToday I say to you Mr. President, Israel is stronger and safer because we look to the future, and we know that the United States of America will always remain our closest and most dependable ally.â€
But hey, weâ€™re not complaining. Like I said, get out the chequebook.
Bush left Israel on Friday for Saudi Arabia, proceeded to Egypt, and then returned to the United States on Sunday.
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** This article also appears in Global Voices Online.