At a White House press conference in April, President George W. Bush stood beside Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and reiterated his administration’s commitment to the inhabitants of the Middle East. “The policy of the United States,” said Bush, “is to help bring peace to the Middle East and to bring hope to the people of that region.”
Lest there be any doubt, Bush continued, “The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. I reiterate our steadfast commitment to Israel’s security and to preserving and strengthening Israel’s self-defense capability, including its right to defend itself against terror.”
Bush stated for the first time what the world – and the Palestinians – needed to hear about the so-called refugee issue. “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel.”
The president showed courage in denying the Palestinians a “right of return” that would destroy Israel. Furthermore, he did so when he was at a nadir in the polls, when he was being brutally attacked by the liberal media over the war in Iraq, and when the 9-11 commission was undermining his integrity. Instead, with character and courage, Bush made a moral decision to stand with Israel.
He also went further than any of his predecessors, saying, “It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
The man who would challenge President Bush for the leadership of the free world, Sen. John Kerry, has not displayed the same forthright support for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. On the contrary, he has identified himself with the failed policies of former-President Bill Clinton that have appeased Palestinian terrorism, bringing death and destruction to Israel.
One manifestation of this is Kerry’s choice of adviser for Israeli affairs, Jay Footlik. A Clinton leftover and longtime supporter of the Oslo accords that led to the last four years of intifada, Footlik is an advocate of the so-called “peace processes” that have become a code word for unilateral Israeli concessions. Another principle he champions is “evenhandedness” – that’s when the suicide bomber and his victims are assured the same measure of understanding and sympathy. Footlik promises to help Kerry be just as bad for Israel as he helped Clinton to be.
But what about Kerry himself? At the beginning of July, both houses of Congress overwhelmingly affirmed the Bush revolution in Middle East policy, what Prime Minister Sharon hailed as “a great day in the history of Israel.” By a vote of 407-9, the House “strongly endorsed” two pledges made by the president to Sharon in a letter on April 14:
- The United States agrees it is “unrealistic” for Israel to pull back to the pre-June 1967 lines and dismantle major West Bank settlements;
- The United States expects Palestinian refugees to be resettled in the eventual state of Palestine. The following day, the Senate passed a similar non-binding resolution by a vote of 95 to 3.
One of the two senators who were absent from the vote was John Kerry. He was in California for election meetings and fund raising – nothing he could have postponed had he really wanted to cast his ballot in favor of President Bush’s Road Map. The fact that he chose not to be in Washington could only be interpreted as a message of opposition to this policy. More ominously, it was a clear signal that a Kerry administration would not be bound by the commitments of his predecessor.
In June, Kerry released a position paper titled, “John Kerry: Strengthening Israel’s Security and Bolstering the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship.” The paper aimed to salvage pro-Israel voters who were justly upset by his remarks during the primaries, when he blasted Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorist fence.
“I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build a barrier off the ‘Green Line,’ cutting deeply into Palestinian areas,” Kerry told the Arab-American Institute in October 2003. “We do not need another barrier to peace.”
Adding insult to injury, he called the barrier a “provocative and counterproductive measure” that was not in Israel’s interest. Israel, thankfully, interprets its interest differently, noting that the fence has cut terrorist attacks, particularly suicide bombings, by 90 percent.
Kerry has since flip-flopped on the fence: “John Kerry supports the construction of Israel’s security fence to stop terrorists from entering Israel,” a campaign statement issued in June reads.
Perhaps the clearest indication of how bad a president Kerry would be for Israel is to be found in the words of the Democratic Party platform. “Under a Democratic Administration,” it proclaims, “the United States will demonstrate the kind of resolve to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that President Clinton showed.” Clinton, of course, was the only American president to welcome the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat to the White House.
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