I suspect that the majority of the readers of the Jewish Standard are happy to say goodbye to George Bush. I, for one, do not share this sentiment. I believe that George W. Bush, though flawed and inarticulate, was one of the greatest presidential friends of Israel since the birth of the Jewish state. He consistently supported Israel’s right to self-defense and repeatedly held Israel’s enemies accountable for their hatred and violence towards Israel and their own people. For that reason alone, George Bush deserves a “Shalom chaver !” rather a “Good riddance” from the Jewish community.

Let me remind readers of George W. Bush’s consistent verbal, political, and moral support of Israel:

• June 25, 2002, in a major White House address after Israel’s incursion into the west bank following months of terrorist attacks by suicide bombers: “I can understand the deep anger and anguish of the Israeli people. You’ve lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer at hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have a right to a normal life; you have a right to security; and I deeply believe that you need a reformed, responsible Palestinian partner to achieve that security.” (Tragically, the Palestinian people responded to the president’s call by giving Hamas a majority in the Palestinian legislature.)

• May 15, 2008, in a speech before the Knesset: “Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.”

• Jan.12, 2009, at his final press conference: “I’m for a sustainable cease-fire and a definition of a sustainable cease-fire is that Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel. And there will not be a sustainable cease-fire if they continue firing rockets. I happen to believe the choice is Hamas’ to make.”

Now I am sure that one can point to aspects of the Bush administration’s foreign policy that were not always in line with Israel’s larger interests (supporting the inclusion of Hamas in Palestinian elections comes to mind), but it seems to me that when push came to shove, be it in the United Nations or in discussions with “moderate Arab leaders” or conferences with foreign leaders, George Bush stood tall with Israel. And he did not “lean on Israel to make painful concessions” as other presidents have done or might do in the future. George Bush was a friend to Israel and thereby a friend to the Jewish people.

And so, I believe, that the Jewish people owe George W. Bush a debt of gratitude.