Reflections on W.


On Monday William Kristol used his NYT column to bemoan the lack of Jewish support for the man he describes as the best presidential friend Israel ever had:

It will probably be a while before he gets much of either. In synagogue, right after the prayer for our country, there is a prayer for the state of Israel, asking the “rock and redeemer of the people Israel” to “spread over it the shelter of your peace.” As we recited this on Saturday, I couldn’t help but reflect that a distressingly small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given much thought at all to the fact that President Bush is one of the greatest friends the state of Israel — and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a while. Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and received no political benefit from doing so. He was criticized by much of the world. He did it because he thought it the right thing to do.

He has been denounced for this, as Israel has been denounced for doing what it judged necessary to defend itself. The liberal sage Bill Moyers has been a harsh critic of Bush. On Jan. 9, on PBS, he also lambasted Israel for what he called its “state terrorism,” its “waging war on an entire population” in Gaza. He traced this Israeli policy back to the Bible, where “God-soaked violence became genetically coded,” apparently in both Arabs and Jews. I wouldn’t presume to say what is and isn’t “genetically coded” in Moyers’s respectable Protestant genes. But I’m glad it was George W. Bush calling the shots over the last eight years, not someone well-thought of by Moyers.

Today The Jerusalem Post runs a piece by Heinrich Maetzke titled "Thank you, Mr. President":

Here is a politically incorrect assessment: Today President George W. Bush will hand over to his successor a Middle Eastern foreign policy outlook far brighter than the one he inherited from Bill Clinton. The 44th US president will have in the Gulf area and beyond what No. 43 so desperately missed: freedom of action to react to upcoming crises.

Even the liberal Ha’aretz is taking a moment as Bush departs to look on the bright side of his presidency:

This is also a moment of leave-taking from the administration of George W. Bush. Bush’s mistakes, whether related to his priorities or conduct, are dwarfed by his realization after September 11, 2001, that radical Islam had declared all-out war on the West; that those being attacked had to move the battle to enemy territory.

Despite the criticism over aspects of the military and political conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially after the fall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, Bush should be credited with halting the attack by governments and organizations, rebels and radicals, who see the ends as justifying the means. Bush has had his share of mistakes and failures, but in the pantheon of American governments, and from the selfish perspective of Israel and its security, he is worthy of being remembered as a dedicated friend who helped Israel. He was the first president to support the establishment of a moderate and democratic Palestinian state alongside the Jewish one.

Recommended from JTA