Remembering What George H.W. Bush Did for the Jews, Even within a Decidedly Mixed Legacy

While the first President Bush, who died on Friday at the age of ninety-four, did not always have easy relations with Israel and the American Jewish community—most notably, his administration convened the 1991 Madrid conference, which helped to legitimize the PLO and to pave the way for the Oslo Accords—it was in his tenure that, thanks largely to the efforts of John Bolton, then an assistant secretary of state, the UN was induced to rescind its infamous 1975 Zionism-is-racism resolution. Bush also did much specifically to help Jews. Ron Kampeas notes that when Bush served as the U.S. ambassador to the UN during the Nixon administration, he “made Soviet Jewry one of his signature issues.” And these efforts continued thereafter:

[A]s Ronald Reagan’s vice-president, Bush quietly helped engineer some of the pivotal moments in the effort to bring Jews out of the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and Syria. . . . Bush was deeply involved in foreign policy as vice-president, and Jewish leaders said he helped orchestrate the dramatic seder hosted by then-Secretary of State George Shultz at the U.S. embassy in Moscow in 1987.

He also ignored advice from much of his national-security team in 1991—the very period when he was in the throes of his most difficult arguments with Jewish leaders [over loan guarantees for Israel]—and approved American overtures to the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia that resulted in Operation Solomon, which brought 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. . . .

Bush also was instrumental in persuading Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator, to allow young Jewish women to leave Syria for New York so they could be matched with men in the Syrian Jewish community. While some of these actions were secret at the time, Bush was averse to claiming responsibility even in subsequent years.

As for Bush’s relations with Israel, Kampeas notes that in his memoir, coauthored with his national-security adviser Brent Scowcroft, Bush recounts “that he expected a degree of gratitude from Israel for protecting it during the Gulf War—apparently not realizing that it was precisely this unwanted protection that stirred resentment among Israelis fiercely committed to protecting themselves.” Protecting itself was exactly what Bush pressured Israel not to do when Saddam Hussein bombarded it with Scud missiles.

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More about: American Jewry, Ethiopian Jews, George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Soviet Jewry, Syrian Jewry

Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations