President Bush suggested this week that Israeli security was a main reason for America’s effort to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel,” Bush declared, following a speech Monday in which he defended his administration’s Iraq policy. “That’s a threat, a serious threat. It’s a threat to world peace; it’s a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.”
Bush’s comments come as his approval ratings have dropped to around 35%, with some analysts suggesting the administration will no longer be able to effectuate its policies. As part of its effort to revive public backing for the Iraq war and build support for a more aggressive policy on Iran, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in recent weeks have spoken to pro-Israel organizations widely seen as supporting the White House.
Bush kicked off his recent string of speeches on Iraq with a March 13 address at George Washington University, at an event organized by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The foundation, based in Washington, is headed by Clifford May and features many prominent neoconservatives on its board.
On March 7, Cheney received 48 rounds of applause from the 4,500 delegates to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“The United States will not be a party to the establishment of a Palestinian state that sponsors terror and violence,” the vice president said, adding, “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
Israeli diplomats in Washington told the Forward that they were comfortable with the administration casting its efforts to isolate Iran as an attempt to protect Israel from a potential nuclear strike. One Israeli diplomat said that American officials “say it because they believe in it. They are committed to Israel’s security.”
Earlier this year, after Bush declared America’s intention to repel any Iranian attack against Israel, Ha’aretz commentator Aluf Benn reported that Israel and the United States were moving closer to formalizing a defense pact between the two countries. According to Benn, Bush and Cheney wanted to respond publicly to the threats of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called for wiping Israel off the map and denied the Holocaust.
Israeli officials referred to Benn’s reporting, but would not confirm it.