By E.J. Kessler

Published October 01, 2004, issue of October 01, 2004.
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Bunk Buster: A Republican Jewish Coalition ad touting President Bush in Jewish newspapers has met a small problem: Its claims are directly contradicted by Bush and the White House.

The ad, headlined “President Bush: Working for Peace. Working for a Secure Israel,” claims that an unnamed “historic agreement” concluded by Bush will “provide Israel with defined, defensible borders,” “will also ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state by saying ‘no’ to the Palestinian ‘Right to Return’” [sic] and “recognizes the rights Jews have to settle and live in peace on the West Bank.”

The ad further states that “George Bush went where no other president would go, not Clinton, not Carter, Nixon or Reagan.”

In truth, no such “historic agreement” exists, and the White House makes no such claims.

The ad refers to a letter that Bush wrote to Ariel Sharon on April 14, giving Sharon some political cover apropos of his controversial Gaza disengagement plan. “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion,” Bush wrote, giving his predecessors due credit as he acknowledged that in 55 years, Israel has expanded. Bush continued, “It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities,” giving a veto power on the Israeli expansion to the Palestinians, who presumably are one party of any “mutual” agreement.

Added Bush, on refugees: “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”

That seems to be something close, but short of, “no right of return.” There is nothing in the letter that “recognizes the rights Jews have to settle and live in peace on the West Bank,” or any language like it.

A transcript on the White House Web site quotes senior administration officials explaining the Bush letter as thus: “What he’s saying is, in fact, everyone who has looked at this has come to the conclusion that as part of a final status agreement, there will have to be agreement on borders. And that agreement on borders will have to in some way take into account realities. How that’s done is going to be up to the parties as part of a final status agreement.” On refugees, one of the officials says: “What the president said is that the issue of refugees, obviously, is a final status issue, resolved by the parties. But what’s also new under this president is the call for the creation of a Palestinian state. And all the president is saying is that the resolution of this issue as part of final status by mutual agreement of the parties is going to have to take, and should take, into account the fact that the president has done something very different here — called for establishment of a Palestinian state. That is now an element of the mix.”

RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks defended his ad, saying that if there were nothing new in Bush’s letter, “there would be no reason to codify it.”

* * *

Outré Oklahoman: The Republican senatorial candidate in Oklahoma, Dr. Tom Coburn, an obstetrician and an evangelical Christian, has found himself embroiled in a controversy after a former patient accused him of sterilizing her without her consent 14 years ago, before she was 21. Endearing himself to women everywhere, Coburn retorted that he had sterilized “lots” of underage females who had come to him with various problems.

An interesting story in The Jerusalem Post, however, describes another Coburn controversy: Seven years ago, writes Washington correspondent Janine Zacharia, Coburn ignited a storm when he condemned NBC for broadcasting the Holocaust movie “Schindler’s List,” calling it an “all-time low” for network television “with full-frontal nudity, violence, and profanity” that was “polluting the minds of our children.” The American Jewish Congress responded that Coburn “has a perverse notion of what is offensive.”

Coburn’s Democratic opponent, Brad Carson, has seized on Coburn’s “Schindler” comments in order to raise money from Jews nationwide. Coburn, a former congressman, also voted against foreign aid, angering pro-Israel activists, Zacharia reported.

With controversies dogging Coburn, he has fallen behind Carson in a new poll – in a state where Bush has a 25-point lead over Senator John Kerry. Vice President Richard Cheney stumped for Coburn last Friday, however, giving him a ringing vote of confidence: “This isn’t about a seat in Oklahoma,” Cheney said. “It’s about control of the Senate.”

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