Top Israelis Boycott Reagan’s State Funeral

Whether one liked Ronald Reagan, despised him or were ambivalent about his eight year presidency, state funerals for Presidents of the United States are the closest thing America has to the pomp and circumstance that surrounds major royal functions in Europe. Presidential funerals offer a rare opportunity for Americans to see their living ex-Presidents gather to honor America’s political and cultural heritage. In December 1972 and January 1973, the United States held back-to-back funerals for Harry S Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, respectively. American state funerals also provide a glimpse of how various nations thought of past U.S. administrations. Nations that send their top past and present leaders signal to Washington the importance they place on close ties with the United States.

With that in mind, Israel’s failure to send any important leaders to Reagan’s funeral was a diplomatic, political, and cultural slap in the face that should not go unnoticed in the Bush administration, the Republican and Democratic parties, the John Kerry campaign, and the American media. Israel was merely represented by its ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon. The tiny Marshall Islands, which receives a miniscule fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars of aid the United States has lavished on Israel, sent its President, Kessai Note. Tiny Liechtenstein sent its Deputy Prime Minister. From cash-strapped Africa came the Presidents of South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Uganda and the Prime Minister of Cameroon. Grenada, the country Reagan invaded in 1983 to depose its government, showed its appreciation by sending one of the largest delegations, including its current and a past Governor General and the Prime Minister. Cyprus, which is a virtual stone’s throw from Israel, sent President Tassos Papadopoulos. Arab nations, which have been irritated by Ariel Sharon’s hijacking of American foreign policy (including support for its apartheid “Berlin Wall” separating Israelis from Palestinians), were magnanimous in honoring Reagan. Arab dignitaries included King Abdullah of Jordan, the Presidents of Algeria and Yemen, the personal envoys of the Sultan of Oman and the Emir of Kuwait, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, and the interim president of Iraq. They all found the time to fly to Washington to honor America’s 40th President. Republican members of Congress, who were quick to step all over themselves in praising Reagan, should keep this in mind the next time they divvy up the foreign aid pie.

Absent from Reagan’s last rites were Sharon, who never hesitates to hop on a special El Al flight to Washington in order to extort Congress and the White House to ante up billions in American military and economic aid for such things as apartheid walls, demolition of Palestinian homes, and Israeli squatter settlements on illegally occupied territory. Other no shows at Washington’s National Cathedral included Israel’s ceremonial President, Moshe Katsav, and former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres.

Israel’s slap at Reagan is even more bizarre when one considers that when the quasi-anti-Semitic Richard Nixon died in 1994, Israel sent its former President Chaim Herzog to attend his state funeral in Yorba Linda, California. Israel also sent high-level emissaries to the funerals of Johnson, Truman, and John F. Kennedy. Even Dwight Eisenhower, who refused to back Israel’s 1956 invasion of Egypt, had higher profile Israeli representation at his 1969 funeral.

Ronald Reagan’s neo-conservative and pro-Israeli cells, operating in the White House and Pentagon, tarnished his image by using Israeli middlemen and intelligence agents to swap American hostages held in Israeli-occupied Lebanon for weapons to Iran’s radical Islamist regime headed by Ayatollah Khomeini. In addition, it was the 1982 Israeli invasion and subsequent destabilization of Lebanon that triggered a series of events that resulted in Reagan dispatching U.S. Marine peacekeepers to Beirut, a decision that was to cost 241 of them their lives in a deadly 1983 truck bombing of their barracks. In effect, Reagan had nothing to thank Israel for but Israel should have been deeply indebted to Reagan. Yet, in a major snub, Israel sent its Ambassador as a sign of its contempt for the United States.

The neo-conservatives are trying to glom George W. Bush’s presidency onto Reagan’s legacy. Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, David Wurmser, John Hannah, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen and the other Bush administration officials who carried out Sharon’s and the Likud’s plan to invade and destabilize Iraq should be asked one very important question: If George W. Bush is so much like Ronald Reagan, why did Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan, and Chief of Staff Howard Baker in 1987 purge the administration of the neo-cons who damaged him through their involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal? Is this why Israel snubbed Reagan’s funeral? After the neo-cons, like the 17-year cycle Brood X cicadas, re-emerged to infest the Bush II administration and handed him a “Weaponsgate,” “Plamegate,” and “Torturegate” trifecta of major scandals, they stand poised to actually bring down this administration. And for future Democratic and Republican administrations, there is an important lesson here. Not only is it time to tag the neo-cons to ensure they never again emerge in a future administration to wreak havoc to American foreign and defense policies, it is also clearly time to rethink America’s relationship with Israel. Its snubbing of Ronald Reagan indicates a certain arrogance and condescension that should not go unpunished. Perhaps their amen corner in the conservative wing of the Republican Congress should keep this in mind the next time they consider foreign aid appropriations for the Israelis.

WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He served in the National Security Agency (NSA) during the Reagan administration and wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of “America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II.” His forthcoming book is titled: “Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops, and Brass Plates.”

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