PARIS – Israel is one of the only places in the world where Georges W. Bush can be greeted with real enthusiasm and even affection. The most unpopular American president in recent history thus relished his recent triumphal welcome in Jerusalem, where he was the guest of honor of the International Conference planned and devised by Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state.
Historical revisionism was near the top of the agenda, with the United States portrayed as Israel’s most faithful supporter and ally since 1948. But in fact, George C. Marshall, the US secretary of state in 1948, sought to prevent President Harry Truman from recognizing Israel. Likewise, the Suez crisis of 1956, when the US thwarted a joint French, British, and Israeli plan to seize the Suez Canal, was presented in a politically correct light, as were Henry Kissinger’s complex diplomacy during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
The hugging and kissing between Bush, Peres, and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert were undeniably moving, but they were also troubling – and not only because serious references to the Palestinians were, for the most part, not on the agenda. One had the feeling that this was something akin to dancing on the Titanic – the culmination of a privileged partnership at its tipping point, a grand gala for something that was about to disappear.
This is not only a matter of leaders – Bush and Olmert – on their way out. Beyond the celebration of eight exceptional years of “unique friendship” under Bush, it also seemed clear that the 41-year-old special relationship inaugurated by the Six Day War in 1967, when the US became Israel’s main backer, might be coming to an end.