WASHINGTON - In an unusual display of appreciation, US President George W. Bush invited outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon to privately bid farewell at the Oval Office on Wednesday.
Bush has often complimented Ayalon on his performance as foreign ambassador, and now Ayalon took the opportunity to reciprocate.
Because of your contribution to the security of Israel, the Jewish people and the world in general, you deserve to have your name memorialized in Israel, said Ayalon, adding that it will be a show of gratitude from the Israeli public.
In the 1930's there was Churchill and now there is you, added Ayalon. Bush was moved by the gesture and told Ayalon that he always was and will always be a friend of Israel.
Branch of Texas institute?
Bush related to Ayalon the long-standing tradition of departing American presidents to build libraries in honor of their legacies, saying that he wanted his Texas library to be an institute for advancing freedom. Ayalon suggested that perhaps the Israeli institute could be a branch of the Texas establishment.
Bush, who took an interest in the idea, suggested that Ayalon coordinate the necessary steps towards establishing an institute in his name with senior aid Karl Rove. The meeting between the two was an informal one, devoid of political talk.
This past weekend Ayalon had dinner with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spoke of her religious convictions and talked passionately about her visit to Jerusalem.
Ayalon also met with Vice President Richard Cheney and resigning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before his departure.