Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Baker Hails Triumph of Israel and Urges Nation to Seek Peace

March 13, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

U.S. Secretary of State James Baker took a few moments out of his hectic diplomatic schedule Tuesday to share some personal feelings about his whirlwind visit to Israel.

He hailed the Jewish state as the “living, thriving proof of man’s hope and of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.”

He said that impression overwhelmed him on his visit Monday afternoon to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, which he called “a very grim monument to a grimmer truth.”

“As I emerged from the darkened memorial building into the light of modern Israel, I could see that you had built in this country the antidote to despair,” Baker told a rapt audience at the community center school in Carmiel.

He landed in the Galilee development town, largely populated by recent immigrants, in the course of a helicopter tour over Israel, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The American diplomat was accompanied by Foreign Minister David Levy and Maj. Gen. Yossi Ben-Hanan, commandant of the Israel Defense Force Staff College.

Greeted by Carmiel’s mayor, crowds of residents from all over the area and young children waving American and Israeli flags, Baker said he hoped Operation Desert Storm would be the last war in this region.

If there was a political message for Israelis in the secretary’s remarks, it was buried deep in emotional imagery.

“Seeing Israel so close, I somehow feel I had seen it before,” said Baker, who was on his first trip to the Jewish state since taking office in 1989.

“Growing up in Texas, in a religious family, we were particularly conscious of the two countries — the United States, where we lived, and ancient Israel, where the basic foundations of the Christian faith were laid,” he said.

“But Israel is not only a place with a great past. You have a vigorous present and a very bright future,” Baker added.


“As the prophet foretold, the dry bones have come back to life. And therefore, it is not surprising to me that those Jews of the Soviet Union, those who lost hope there, recover that hope here. And this school is a working, tangible symbol of that hope,” Baker said.

He assured his audience, “You are not alone in building the great hope of Israel today.

“The American people share your pride, your values, your belief in democracy, your strength in defending your existence. And we are proud to be helping you as you open your doors to Jews from the Soviet Union and from Ethiopia.”

Baker also stressed the “strategic alliance that enables us to work together on the very most important issues.”

He praised Israel again for its conduct under unprovoked attacks by Iraqi missiles. “I can think of few occasions in history when a nation under attack by a merciless foe such as Saddam Hussein held its breath and, through its self-restraint, facilitated successful American and coalition efforts to destroy the threat,” he said.

Baker said all Americans supported President Bush’s decision to assist Israel with Patriot anti-missile batteries, “even as our own forces worked ceaselessly to destroy the Iraqi Scuds.

“No one can doubt today, I think, the wisdom of Israel’s decision for restraint. No one can doubt today our commitment, that the American commitment to Israel’s security is firm.”

“The storm is now over,” Baker observed. “Everywhere, people are trying to pick up their lives and find hope for the future. The nations of the Middle East ar. I think, very anxious to close the book of war and to open the book of peace.

“I would suggest that now it is time for all of us to take the psalmist’s advice, ‘Seek ye peace and pursue it,’ ” the secretary said.

He concluded his remarks with a pledge to work with Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states in search of a lasting peace, “which is built on trust” and reconciliation.

“And I mean peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors and peace with the Palestinians, a lasting peace in the region,” Baker said.

Recommended from JTA