Welcome to Bethlehem
A piece in the New York Review of Books on Condoleezza Rice’s new memoir is weirdly absent the word neoconservative when author Joseph Lelyveld tries to explain why we invaded Iraq–we were seeking to establish a “foothold” in an Arab land with oil. But it does offer some gems about George Bush’s Israelophilia:
[Secy of State Colin] Powell wanted early on to resolve gaping differences with the White House over Israel and the Palestinians at a time of suicide bombings and severe reprisals and plans to augment settlements, which the State Department thought excessive. She was “sympathetic to him because he was on the front line every day.” But, she goes on, “I talked to the President every day, and I knew where he stood.” If there were a policy showdown, she suggests, Powell would have lost. The result “would be so pro-Israeli as to inflame an already bad situation.” The kind of clarity to which the President was given, she seems to be saying, served no one’s interest in that and other cases….
[Later Rice is herself secretary of state, and:] The secretary, who calls her approach “transformational diplomacy,” is hoping for a breakthrough also with the Israelis and Palestinians. Considering that she served the friendliest administration the Israelis will probably ever see, it’s instructive to compare her complaints about Israeli trickiness and maneuvering to those that have seeped out of the embattled Obama White House. Israel was a close ally and a democracy but its leaders were “sometimes a nightmare to deal with”; they had to be warned not to lobby Congress; in any conversation “there was a ‘but’”; they “always seem to overreach”; getting the Israelis “to actually carry through on promises relating to the Palestinians” was a continuing frustration, particularly promises involving Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
On a presidential visit to Israel in 2008, Bush travels to Bethlehem by car rather than helicopter against the wishes of the Israelis because Rice wants him to see “the ugliness of the occupation, including the checkpoints and the security wall…for himself and [because] it would have been an insult to the Palestinians if he didn’t.” The barriers were taken down, the convoy traveled at speed, but Bush got the point, according to Rice: “‘This is awful,’ he said quietly.”