George Bush is coming to Israel this week. He will take pleasure in his visit. One can assume that there are few prime ministers with a giant photo of themselves with the U.S. president hanging on the wall in their home, as our Ehud Olmert boasted last week that he does, to his exalted guest, the comic Eli Yatzpan. There are also few other countries where the lame duck from Washington would not be greeted with mass demonstrations; instead, Israel is making great efforts to welcome him graciously. The man who has wreaked such ruin upon the world, upon his country, and upon us is such a welcome guest only in Israel.
A man is coming to Israel this week who has left a trail of killing, destruction and global hatred. Never has the U.S. been so despised as during Bush’s seven years in office, which abruptly brought his county back to the not-so-merry days of Vietnam.
He led the U.S., and the free world in its wake, into two brutal and completely futile wars of conquest, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. He sowed mass killing in these two wretched countries under the false pretext of a battle against global terror.
But the world after these two wars is not a better world or a safer one. And these two wounded countries feel no gratitude toward the superpower that ostensibly came to emancipate them from their regimes of terror.
There was no connection between the attack on the Twin Towers and Iraq. Saudi Arabia, where most of the terrorists came from, could have been a more appropriate target but it remained an ally of the U.S. despite its despotic regime. The war in Iraq, the rationale for which – the presence of weapons of mass destruction – was revealed to be false, was an atrocious, futile war that is far from being over, even if its daily toll of killing has declined from 100 to 50.
In Western Europe, in South America, in Asia, in all parts of the Arab and Muslim world and in parts of Africa, the sole global superpower has come to be viewed as a hostile, arrogant and ostracized entity. This is not good for America and it is not good for the world.
Closer to home, it is worth remembering the damage Bush has caused to the Middle East. His seven years in power have been wasted years, barren and dangerous. Never has there been a president who gave Israel such an automatic carte blanche and even encouraged it to take violent action, to deepen and entrench the occupation.
This is not friendship with Israel. This is not concern for its future. A president who did not even try to pressure Israel to end the occupation is a president who is hostile to it, indifferent to its future and fate.
A president who endorsed every abomination – from the expansion of settlements to the failure to honor commitments and signed agreements, including those with U.S. such as the passages agreement and the freeze on settlement construction – is not a president who seeks the best for Israel or aspires to peace.
What happened to the days when Israel hesitated before planting another trailer home in the territories or before every liquidation operation out of fear for America’s reaction? What happened to the days when there was a president in Washington who sowed trepidation in Jerusalem before each human rights violation or war crime?
This is all we got from Bush: a more entrenched and brutal occupation with the open, or tacit, encouragement of the U.S.; a green light for another superfluous war in Lebanon; a Hamas government in Gaza, which the U.S., and consequently the rest of the world, is boycotting – a measure that has only led to the starvation of Gaza, while failing to weaken Hamas; and U.S. authorization for “the settlement blocs.”
The Middle East has only moved further away from peace during Bush’s tenure.
His belated and feeble attempts to change this fact have not produced anything. Until a determined president is inaugurated in Washington who will engage in a serious effort to bring an end to the occupation, no peace will prevail here. Bush could have done this, but he abused his office.
This is the man who is coming to us this week. History will yet judge him for his actions and his failures. The world feels enmity toward him and even the U.S. is already sick and tired of him. Only here is he accorded honor and glory.
GIDEON LEVY writes for Ha’aretz.