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Bush’s Legacy

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Jay Lefkowitz, a onetime Bush adviser, argues in the New York Sun today that the president’s faith in democracy and belief in the sanctity of life have produced a revolutionary U.S. policy benefiting both Israel and the Palestinians:

But while Mr. Bush’s record on Israel surely has not been the product of any political debt he may have owed the Jewish community, he nonetheless proceeded to remake America’s Arab-Israeli policy in the most profound way. The signal event was his Rose Garden speech on June 24, 2002. The president called for establishment of a Palestinian state, but set reform and democracy and abandonment of terror as conditions for establishment of the state: “It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. … My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security.”

Never before has a president articulated as forcefully that a Palestinian State was an objective of our foreign policy. As I listened to the president deliver the speech and heard him speak about it in the subsequent days, I realized that the president had turned United States policy on its head — in a way that was not only sympathetic to Israel, but also pro-Palestinian.

Over at the Washington Post, Michael Abromowitz reports on critics who say that despite Bush’s good intentions his policies have ultimately been bad for Israel:

Appearing at an Israeli Embassy reception last Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state, Vice President Cheney voiced a sentiment that is common among many American Jews, evangelicals and others. “Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than the 43rd president of the United States,” he said.

Yet as President Bush prepares to return to Jerusalem this week to celebrate the milestone, that assessment is the subject of fierce debate both here and Israel. Few doubt the sincerity of Bush’s passion, which has translated into unprecedented backing for Israeli self-defense and the most clearly stated presidential commitment to protect Israel if it is attacked.

But from left to right, Bush also faces criticism for pursuing Middle East policies that, many diplomats and analysts believe, have left Israel more threatened than when he assumed office in January 2001.

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