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America Decides 2004 Bush on Issues of Jewish Concern, from Israel to Faith-based Initiatives

August 24, 2004
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Here are some of President Bush’s stated positions on issues of concern to U.S. Jews, compiled from speeches, his letters and statements as president, and a glossy pamphlet published this month presenting Bush’s record as “a friend of the American Jewish community.” ISRAEL:

West Bank security barrier:

President Bush sharply criticized the security barrier in its initial conception last year, but dropped objections once Israel agreed to modify the route of the barrier to lessen the impact on Palestinians.

Israel dropped plans to defend the barrier at the International Court of Justice in February after the Bush administration made clear it would oppose the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the matter and would not join Israel in defending the fence at the court. The ICJ ultimately decided the parts of the barrier that go into the West Bank are illegal.

“The barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather! than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities” (letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004.)

Gaza Strip withdrawal:

Bush has enthusiastically endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip as the best hope for reviving the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan.

“We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared, under which Israel would withdraw certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza, and withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank. These steps described in the plan will mark real progress toward realizing my June 24, 2002 vision, and make a real contribution towards peace” (April 14 letter).

Israel’s borders:

B! ush’s April 14 letter made history when it recognized some Israeli cla ims to the West Bank by rejecting a return to the 1949 armistice line, commonly known as the Green Line. The letters also rejected any “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

“The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state. 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 in Israel. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, 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, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status! agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities” (April 14 letter).

Yasser Arafat:

Bush has criticized the Palestinian Authority president for supporting terrorism and has made his ouster a condition for the formation of a Palestinian state. Bush has never invited Arafat to the White House.

“Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror” (Bush speech, June 24, 2002).



Like many presidents before him, Bush pledged during his 2000 campaign to move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital — and, like each of those presidents, he failed to do so. Republican officials say the commitment to moving the embassy will make another appearance in this year’s party platform.


Democracy: Bush has made democratizing the Arab world a centerpiece of his Midd le East policy. He has outlined incentives to prod Arab states to introduce reforms.


Bush called Iran part of an “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea (State of the Union Address 2002). Bush wants to continue investigating to learn if Iran aids terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Al-Qaida, and whether Iran had a role in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (CNN, 7/19/2004). Bush believes in maintaining pressure on Iran to disclose its nuclear plans (Rose Garden news conference, 8/2/2004).

“We are paying very close attention to Iran. We have ever since I’ve been in office here. We are working with our friends to keep the pressure on the mullahs to listen to the demands of the free world,” Bush said in a Rose Garden news conference on Aug. 2, 2004. The United States is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency “to keep the pressure on Iran, and” Secretary of State Colin Powell “is working very closely with the foreign ministers o! f France, Great Britain and Germany, who are taking it upon themselves to make it clear that the demands of Europe are. . .the same as the demands of the United States, that we expect there to be full disclosure, full transparency of their nuclear weapons programs.”


Bush at first resisted Congress’ Syria Accountability Act, which imposes sanctions on Syria as long as it supports terrorists, fails to dismantle programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, continues to occupy Lebanon and fails to secure its border with Iraq. Bush relented in December, after Syria failed to meet even the minimal requirements of the proposed bill, and signed it into law. The bill had a six-month grace period written into it, but after Syria failed once again to make progress — with the exception of securing the Iraqi border — Bush imposed some sanctions in May affecting trade and travel. In recent weeks, administration officials have hinted that more sanctions could ! be in store.

“The Syrian government must understand that its condu ct alone will determine the duration of the sanctions, and the extent to which additional sanctions may be imposed should the Syrian government fail to adopt a more constructive approach to relations with its neighbors, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism.

“If the Syrian government demonstrates a genuine intention to seek true peace by confronting terror and violence, ending its pursuit and development of weapons of mass destruction, and respecting the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, the United States will respond positively” (Statement upon imposing sanctions, May 11, 2004).


Bush has won accolades from a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations for his role — considered critical — in getting European nations to examine burgeoning anti-Semitism in two conferences. Democrats have chided him, however, for not speaking out strongly against anti-Semitism among U.S. allies in the Muslim world, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia; Bus! h administration officials say such criticism is implicit in Bush’s prodding for democratic reforms in those countries.

“Perhaps the deepest obstacle to peace is found in the hearts of men and women. The Jewish people have seen, over the years and over the centuries, that hate prepares the way for violence. The refusal to expose and confront intolerance can lead to crimes beyond imagining. So we have a duty to expose and confront anti-Semitism, wherever it is found” (AIPAC speech, May 18, 2004).



In 1999, Bush said he would support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to preserve the health of the mother, but he provided the caveat that America was not ready for such a change (Washington Post, 3/11/1999). Bush repeated part of that declaration in the prelude to signing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, saying, “I don’t think the culture has changed to the extent that! the American people or the Congress would totally ban abortions” (Det roit News, 10/29/2003).

Judicial nominees:

Bush says he chooses judges based on their qualifications, not by their position on specific issues. He criticizes what he calls “activist judges” and says that judges should not seek to legislate from the bench. He has repeatedly decried the pace of confirmation of his nominees in the U.S. Senate, saying judges deserve a simple floor vote and should not be held up through procedural tactics (speaking to reporters in Raleigh Durham International Airport, July 7, 2004). Some Jewish groups have strongly opposed some of Bush’s nominees, saying they would roll back abortion rights and church-state separation.

Religious freedom:

Bush has made freedom of religion a centerpiece of his administration, and has repeatedly used it to explain his foreign policy. “It is not an accident that freedom of religion is one of the central freedoms in our Bill of Rights. It is the first freedom of the human soul — the ri! ght to speak the words that God places in our mouths. We must stand for that freedom in our country. We must speak for that freedom in the world” (Speech to the American Jewish Committee, May 4, 2001).

Faith-based initiatives:

Bush favors transferring some of the role of rendering social services from the federal government to religious institutions. Some Jewish groups worry that his proposals would relax protections against discriminatory hiring and use of federal money to proselytize. “I will continue our efforts to defend the liberty of religious organizations. Faith-based charities have a right to provide publicly-funded social services, just like any other group. You see, our government should welcome faith. So I have signed an executive order allowing religious charities who seek government support to compete for funding on a level playing field” (speech to Southern Baptist Convention, June 15, 2004).

Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas contributed! to this report.

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