The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized former Florida governor and possible republican presidential contender Jeb Bush for appointing the perennially anti-Israel former Secretary of State James Baker as one of his senior foreign policy advisers.
Baker, who served as Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush (1989-92) is a long-time critic of America’s close relationship with Israel. Among his many worrying Middle East positions, initiatives and anti-Israeli words and deeds:
- In March 1990, PLO leader and arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat lauded Baker for pressuring Israel and telling Israelis “to forget the dream of a Greater Israel [i.e. Israel plus any part of the territories of Judea/Samaria and Gaza]”
- In September 1990, Baker met the late Syrian dictator Hafiz Assad, giving him a detailed account of Syrian terror sponsorship. Syria responded –– by tracing and killing the three Jordanian agents who had supplied the information.
- Baker berated Israel after the 1991 Gulf War for being insufficiently interested in negotiating with Arab parties, insultingly telling the House Foreign Relations Committee, “I have to tell you that everybody over there should know that the telephone number is 1-202-456-1414 … When you’re serious about peace, call us.”
- Baker tried to work around and marginalize the Israeli government of Yitzhak Shamir by courting the opposition Labor Party.
- In the run up to the 1992 presidential elections, in which Baker managed George H. W. Bush’s losing campaign for re-election, Baker opposed taking a more pro-Israel line, saying, “F— the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.”
- In 1995, Baker was sought out by the Syrian dictator, Hafez al-Assad, to revive negotiations with Israel. Permitted to do so by President Clinton, Baker traveled to Damascus and Jerusalem, but, as then-Israeli embassy spokesman Gadi Baltiansky said, “It didn’t break the ice, nothing came of it.”
- In October 2006, Baker boasted in a interview with George Stephanopoulis that, in 1990, he had had “success” in getting Syria to stop state sponsorship of terrorism –– when in fact Syria had remained throughout the period 1990-2006 a sponsor of the following terrorist groups: the Kurdish PKK, al-Saiqa, Asbat-al-Ansar, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and of course Hizballah in Lebanon (Barry Rubin, The Truth About Syria, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007, p. 78).
- In 2006, Baker co-authored the Baker Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, which recommended that the U.S. withdraw from Iraq without destroying the Ba’athist-Al-Qaeda terrorist insurgency and urging direct talks with the Syrian and Iranian dictatorships. The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, described the ISG’s conclusions “very dangerous” to Iraq’s sovereignty and constitution, saying, “As a whole, I reject this report.” Talabani also blamed Baker for leaving then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in power after the 1991 Gulf War, which ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is deeply disconcerting that Governor Bush would, not only contemplate, but actually appoint, as adviser someone who has been utterly wrong about the Middle East and unrelentingly hostile to Israel, endlessly demanding concessions and suggesting that Israel is the stumbling block to peace, while ignoring the continuing extremism, rejectionism and terrorism of the Palestinian Arabs, Syria and other hostile regimes.
“This represents a bad choice and indicates a serious lack of judgment on the part of Jeb Bush. We urge him to rescind this appointment without delay.”