Candidate George W. Bush on Israel
(May 22, 2000)
Speech by Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) to American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., May 22, 2000. Excerpts:
America and Israel have a special friendship. In fact, it's more than a friendship. America and Israel are brothers and sisters in the family of democracy, natural allies – natural allies in the cause of peace.
The family of democracy transcends borders and oceans. What unites us is a powerful conviction, perhaps the greatest of all convictions. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
These truths were self-evident to America's Founding Fathers. They learned them not only from the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment, but also from the example of Moses. The 10 Commandments, after all, are the core principles of democracy, the charter of human dignity and equality. Our two nations share so much, not only core convictions but also a vision for the future. Americans and Israelis alike understand that the family of democracy must be an educated family, a family that knows and understands its traditions and passes them on to the young....
American and Israel both know that the future is a high-tech future. So, I mean, we must work to teach our people the complex skills they will need to prosper. Just as this country has been enriched by the work do in Silicon Valley, Israeli computer companies are making large strides in providing the world with the next generation in software and hardware. Truth is, if you go to any high-tech conference, you will see Israeli engineers and entrepreneurs and American software designers exchanging ideas. This economic and entrepreneurial cooperation is helping to redefine and strengthen the American-Israeli relationship.
Our high-tech cooperation is also taking shape in my own state of Texas. As many of you may have heard or many of you know, the crew of Flight 107 of the space shuttle Columbia is in training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for a launch sometime next spring. One of those crew members is a 45-year-old colonel in the Israeli Air Force named Ilan Ramon, a child -- a child of Holocaust survivors. One of the experiment Elan will perform in space was designed by 35 eighth-graders from a school near Haifa. The space experiment will explore why some plants on earth defy the pull of gravity to grow upwards. It's an interesting experiment and a fitting tribute to a nation that has made the desert bloom.
The ties between Israel and America are of course deeper than a joint venture in space. They are more enduring than handshakes on the White House lawn and free trade agreements, vital though such things may be. The things that bind us are our deep commitments to human dignity. No nation can fulfill the God-given right of its people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if it must live in a state of perpetual war. Israel wants peace. And like all good Americans of good will, I want peace for Israel and peace in the Middle East.
I recognize the importance of the peace process and the key role that the United States can play. But my support for Israel is not conditional on the outcome of the peace process.
America's special relationship with Israel precedes the peace process. And Israel's adversaries should know that in my administration, the special relationship will continue, even if they cannot bring themselves to make true peace with the Jewish state.
Let me say how sorry I am that I will not be meeting with Prime Minister Barak tomorrow, as we had planned. Of course, we all completely understand. I first had the honor of meeting with him in Israel when he was the opposition leader -- which is a good reminder of the healthy democracy that thrives in Israel. I am deeply disturbed by the violence that continues in the West Bank and in South Lebanon, disturbed by reports of Palestinian police opening fire on Israeli soldiers last week. This is certainly no way to make peace a reality.
We have seen Israel's desire for peace and what can be accomplished when moderate Arab states respond in kind. We saw how the Camp David Accords ended the state of war with Egypt, with Israel sacrificing land and oil for peace, and Egypt taking great risks as well. We have seen the benefits to both Jordan and Israel when courageous leaders look beyond ancient rivalries, progress America must encourage with other Arab states. We have seen Israel's turn toward the Palestinians, sacrificing land in hopes of a better future for both peoples. The United States is proud and respectful of the sacrifices Israel is making, sacrifices that few nations are called upon to make.
In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables; but this is not the path to peace. A clear and bad example was the administration's attempt to take sides in the most recent Israeli election. America should not interfere in Israel's democratic process. And America will not interfere in Israeli elections when I am the president. But something will happen when I become the president. As soon as I take office, I will begin the process of moving the United States ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital....
Too often, it is easy to forget that not every democracy is blessed in the way America is, by our size, our wealth, our geography. Too often, we forget what it means to be a small nation in an often hostile neighborhood. A few years ago on a trip to Israel, General Sharon took me on a helicopter flight over the West Bank. And what a trip that was. What struck me, as you all know better than I, is the tiny distance between enemy lines and Israel's population centers. The general said that before the Six-Day War, Israel as only nine miles wide at its narrowest point. In Texas, some of our driveways are longer than that.
It's sobering to think that while the distance between Dallas and Galveston is 270 miles, the distance between Israel and Saddam Hussein's Iraq is only 250 miles. And the world learned to its horror, back in 1991, that those 250 miles can be crossed in a matter of 12 minutes by a Scud missile. The Gulf War showed the world the danger posed to the family of democracy by rogue states armed with missiles. Who could forget the sight of millions of Israelis wearing gas masks to protect themselves in case those Scuds were carrying chemical weapons? And who could forget the Israeli children who had to be sealed away from their mothers and fathers in plastic tents during those air raids? Saddam's attacks were the act of a tyrant without decency.
And we are seeing similar hostility again today, as 13 Jews are unjustly imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage. Even in this new century, the ancient wrong of anti-Semitism remains. While the 13 remain in prison, their human rights must be respected. The leaders of Iran should know that America would judge them by their conduct and treatment of these 13.
Continuing acts of anti-Semitism in Iran and elsewhere in the world make it clear the need for Israel to defend its people and its homeland. And Israel is leading the way in showing the world that nations can protect themselves from missile attacks. We all saw how the relatively simple Patriot System worked to defend against Scud missiles during the Gulf War. And in the years since, Israel's successful deployment of the more sophisticated Arrow has offered its people greater protection from a growing threat.
This is something else the family of democracy has in common; the danger of totalitarianism is waning, but the threat from rogue states is rising. The danger crosses borders and oceans. And it means not only Israel, but also that the United States must be able to protect our citizens and our homeland with ballistic missile defenses.
North Korea has developed missiles capable of hitting Hawaii and Alaska. That nation may be an ideological relic, but its tyrants are doing everything they can to be a 21st century menace. Nations like Iran and Iraq are developing capabilities of their own. And four years ago, a Chinese general warned America that his country possesses the means to incinerate Los Angeles with nuclear weapons.
Israel offers an important reminder to America, a reminder that freedom is precious and that freedom's enemies remain a threat. We must cherish our freedom, and we must protect it. That is why my administration will build and deploy missile defenses to protect America's homeland and our allies'. That is why my administration will restore America's military. I hope you will support my efforts. For, as President Ronald Reagan said, "An America that loses faith in the idea of a strong defense is an America that will lose faith in a nation at arms like Israel...."
I'm sure that in the course of my administration, as in every administration, there will be some times when we don't always agree. But I respect the role you play. My advice is, keep speaking, keep working, keep fighting for your principles. This nation, the land of Israel, the Middle East and the world are better for it. Thank you for inviting me. God bless.
Source: Conference for Middle East Peace