Why is Ronald Reagan remembered as especially pro-Israel?
President Obama’s current visit to Israel reminds me of THIS COLUMN of 15 months ago by Chemi Shalev:
Imagine if Israel would launch a successful preemptive strike against a country that is building a nuclear bomb that threatens its very existence, and the American president would describe it as “a tragedy”.
And then, not only would the U.S. administration fail to “stand by its ally”, as Republicans pledged this week, but it would actually lend its hand to a UN Security Council decision that condemns Israel, calls on it to place its nuclear facilities under international supervision and demands that it pay reparations (!) for the damage it had wrought.
And then, to add insult to injury, the U.S. president would impose an embargo on further sales of F-16 aircraft because Israel had “violated its commitment to use the planes only in self-defense”.
Can you imagine the uproar? Can you contemplate the brouhaha? I mean, if Mitt Romney believes that President Obama “threw Israel under the bus” just for suggesting that a peace settlement with Israel be based on the 1967 borders – what would he say about a president who actually turns his back on Israel in its greatest time of need? That he hurled Israel over the cliff with a live grenade in its pocket and into a burning volcano?
And what if that very same president, only a few months later, would decide to sell truly game-changing sophisticated weaponry to Saudi Arabia, an Arab country that is a sworn enemy of Israel? And not only would this president dismiss Israeli objections that these weapons endanger its security, but he would actually warn, in a manner that sent shivers down the spines of American Jews, that “it is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy”. And his Secretary of State would mince no words, just in case Walt or Mearsheimer hadn’t heard the first time, saying ominously that if the deal would be blocked by Israeli influence, there would be “serious implications on all American policies in the Middle East… I’ll just leave it there.” And then the two of them would extend the abovementioned arms embargo, just to twist Israel’s arm a little bit more.
I mean, what words would be left to describe such behavior, after the entire thesaurus’ arsenal of synonyms for “insult” “perfidy” and “knife in the back” have been exhausted to describe the official White House photo of President Obama talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu with his shoes on the table?
And what if this same president – you know who I’m talking about by now, but let’s keep up the charade – what if this same president, time after time after time, not only failed to exercise the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to block anti-Israeli resolutions, but actually joined Muslim and Communist and other heathen countries in supporting Security Council decisions that condemned Israel for assassinating well-known terrorists; for annexing territories that Michele Bachman has clearly stated belong only to Israel; for killing violent jihadist students at Bir Zeit University; for waging war against the enemies of Western civilization in Lebanon; and even for “Israel’s policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians.” Denying the human rights of Palestinians? Who wrote that? Judge Goldstone? Khaled Meshal?
And finally — and this is where we really enter the Twilight Zone, I admit — imagine if this president not only never once visited Israel, despite being eight years in office, but he even balked at visiting a concentration camp, as Obama did after his speech in Cairo. You want to know why? Because – take a deep breath – because the Germans “feel that they have a guilt feeling that’s been imposed upon them.” Poor things.
But wait, I’m not finished yet. So where does this president insist on going, despite overwhelming Jewish objections and an emotional last-minute appeal by Elie Wiesel in the name of Holocaust survivors? To lay a wreath [see photo above] at a ceremony commemorating the memory of the soldiers of the Waffen SS, a Nazi unit designated as a criminal organization at the Nuremberg trials, whose soldiers committed countless war crimes, including the razing of the Warsaw Ghetto, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews. And what does this president, this American idol of Republican conservatives, this righteous gentile of right-wing Jews, what does he have to say about these Nazi war criminals? That “they were victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”
ADDENDUM: Regarding the wreath-laying ceremony pictured above, here’s an excerpt from a previous Applesauce post:
The story goes back to 1985 when then-President Reagan made a visit to Germany to mark the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe.
At the request of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Reagan participated in memorial services at a military cemetery near the town of Bitburg. Among the thousands of graves of German soldiers at Kolmeshohe Cemetery are those of 49 members of the Waffen-SS, an elite armed wing of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. None of the graves are those of Americans.
Kohl had suggested the visit to Kolmeshohe as a symbol of the post-war reconciliation of the United States and Germany, and Reagan had readily acceded to the request, thereby touching off a huge uproar among Americans.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel implored Reagan not to visit the cemetery, and to find, instead, some other site to symbolize German-American friendship. “That place, Mr. President, is not your place,” said Wiesel.
Ninety-five Republican members of Congress objected to the Bitburg visit, as did countless other Americans. Former U.S. Army Sgt. Jim Hively mailed his World War II decorations, including a silver star and a bronze star, to Reagan in protest.
In response to the uproar, Kohl told The New York Times: “I will not give up the idea. If we don’t go to Bitburg, if we don’t do what we jointly planned, we will deeply offend the feelings of [my] people.”
The hubbub had the opposite effect of what had been intended. The Bitburg controversy strained German-American relations. White House officials said their German counterparts had assured them that nothing in the cemetery visit would embarrass Reagan. For their part, Chancellery officials said the way Reagan’s people handled the controversy “was not very intelligent.”
Reagan defended himself by saying:
“These [SS troops] were the villains, as we know, that conducted the persecutions and all. But there are 2,000 graves there, and most of those, the average age is about 18. I think that there’s nothing wrong with visiting that cemetery where those young men are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”
The president’s statement, with its equating of Nazi soldiers with Holocaust victims, only heightened the controversy. Even Reagan’s wife Nancy was said to be opposed to the cemetery visit.
Robert McFarlane, an aide to the president, later said this: “Once Reagan learned that Kohl would really be badly damaged by a withdrawal, he said ‘We can’t do that; I owe him.’”
Reagan’s visit to the cemetery lasted only eight minutes, during which time he laid a wreath at a wall of remembrance and stood at attention as a short trumpet salute was sounded.
The fuss over Bitburg gradually faded and today is only barely remembered, if at all, by most Americans.