Something rare is happening in U.S.-Israel relations – something that has happened only once since the rebirth of the state of Israel in 1948. Only one American president ever slapped an Israeli prime minister on the back and said, “Y’all come on over and meet the folks.” More presidents have slapped them upside the head!
In January 1968, Lyndon Johnson was the first presidential Texan to host an Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, for a Texas good time and some “barbecue diplomacy” at his Hill Country cattle ranch in Johnson City.
On April 11, Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, will come alive as the Bible land meets the Bible belt.
Sharon will step into what President Bush sees as genuine America – just plain folks – where a handshake is as good as a written contract. The two ranchers will ride the range side-by-side on a virtual cattle drive – or for Sharon, sheep herding.
The two leaders have hit it off ever since their first meeting in December 1998, when then-foreign minister and former general Ariel Sharon spent a couple of hours in a helicopter showing a promising Texas governor how small the Holy Land really is – especially compared to some Texas ranches.
Just over a year later, President George W. Bush telephoned Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon to congratulate him shortly after his victory and reminisced with him about their helicopter trip. According to the Jerusalem Post (Feb. 8, 2001), Bush reminded Sharon that, when they parted, the then-Texas governor had told him that the next time they would see each other would be when he is president and Sharon is prime minister.
During the 2004 presidential election, Sharon broke with many Jewish supporters in the United States by wholeheartedly endorsing Bush’s re-election.
Sharon refused to meet with Kerry – he even declined a meeting with Kerry’s brother. Sharon bet the ranch on Bush and was vindicated when the president was re-elected. Known to be one tough Texan, George W. Bush has done more for Israel in one term than all past American presidents combined.
Iraq is no longer a mortal threat to Israel, and the U.S. crosshairs are now squarely fixed on Iran’s nuclear reactor. Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to Israel. Libya has shut down its WMD program and even appears to be shutting down its state sponsorship of terrorism. Look at Syria: Damascus has blinked and is reluctantly withdrawing from Lebanon. Bush took on Yasser Arafat and completely destroyed his creditability – something that Israel itself could not do.
A fresh wind is blowing in the Middle East. Israel’s emerging victory in the war against terrorism is providing it with the opportunity of moving toward becoming self-sufficient economically. A country whose annual expenditure on defense has been a strangling and suffocating 11.8 percent of GDP now has no enemies of significance to fight. Now that’s “Shalom, y’all.”