"When the president arrives here next week, he will be greeted warmly as a friend… the silent majority of Israelis want to thank the President," the memo read.
"Israel is preparing to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of its declaration of independence," writes Jones. "A characteristically Israeli mix of pride in their achievements and worry about the future," he added.
In the memo the ambassador explains that Bush is very popular among the Israeli public. "One point that unites virtually all Israelis – is their appreciation for President Bush's friendship and support throughout his two terms. When the president arrives here next week, he will be greeted warmly as a friend not just by Israel's political and military elite, but also by the vast majority of its seven million people."
A friend to Israel. Bush and Olmert in Massada, 2008 (Photo: Moshe Millner, GPO)
In addition, the US ambassador wrote that Israel's sense of pride is just. "The vision of a strong, democratic Jewish state that would be a haven for Jews everywhere started as a desperate dream, as Israel's fledgling army was bolstered by the arrival of tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors and hundreds of Jewish WW II veterans who arrived just in time to help counter the invasion of the new state by the armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, not to mention the Palestinians' irregular forces. Today, Israel is very much a reality, with a vibrantly original Hebrew-speaking cultural life, a booming high tech-based economy, and the strongest army in the Middle East."
Throughout the memo Jones notes the changes Israel has gone through over the years. "A Tel Aviv skyline dominated by gleaming skyscrapers… Israel at sixty is firmly Western in its values but also more diverse ethnically and culturally, less Europe-oriented, and decidedly more capitalist than the Israel founded largely by East European-born socialists."
Jones added: "Israel is the only Middle Eastern country in which its citizens take for granted the peaceful transfer of political power via ballot box."
Celebrations tinged with anxiety
"This year's celebrations are also tinged with anxiety," wrote Jones. "The looming threat of nuclear-armed Iran, whose leaders constantly declare their determination to wipe Israel off the map, weighs heavily on the minds of Israelis, who regard their country not only through the prism of the Holocaust but also as the only IN member-state to be routinely threatened with annihilation."
According to Jones, "Israelis are watching carefully to see how the US manages the next few years of our involvement in Iraq and whether we can succeed in stabilizing Iraq in a way that avoids its becoming either an Iranian client state or a source of instability."
Jones also addressed the demographic issues in Israel. "The growing assertiveness of Israel's large Arab minority, now about twenty percent of the total population, is both a further source of concern and an additional impetus to create a Palestinian state."
The ambassador discussed the Israelis' view regarding their relations with their Palestinian neighbors, noting a change. "A solid majority of Israelis has come to accept the need for a Palestinian state and for Israel to relinquish control of most of the West Bank… Gone are the days when many Israelis questioned the existence of a Palestinian national identity, and today only a small minority continues to articulate a demand to retain control of all the West Bank."
However, Jones also claimed that Israel doubts "the Palestinians' capacity to hold up their end of the land-for-peace bargain." He added: "Virtually all Israeli leaders tell us how much they respect Salam Fayyad, yet believe that Abbas or Fayyad enjoy much popular legitimacy among Palestinians."
Jones noted the that Israelis are very troubled by the rockets from Gaza and fear a similar fate in the West Bank if the Palestinians gain control of more territories.
The ambassador further discussed the settlers, saying: "Even though they no longer have the sympathy of the Israeli public, they have powerful allies in the bureaucracy, wealthy backers in Israel and abroad who are willing to fund the settlement enterprise, and an IDF that will not challenge the settlers without clear instructions for the political echelon (and even then may drag its feet)."
Olmert facing political crisis
Jones sent this memo only a few days before the Moshe Talansky affair exploded, caused uproar within the Israeli political system.
"Even as we finalize the preparations for the President's visit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is once again facing a political crisis… Leaks in the media indicate that an American investor may be involved with the PM in alleged financial misdeeds before Olmert became Prime Minister. And although Olmert has survived the four previous investigations, informed Israelis are suggesting that this time he may be in much more serious trouble."
Jones attempted to find out more about the story, mentioned in his memo a meeting he had held with then Labor Party insider and Minister of Infrastructure Binyamin Ben Eliezer. According to his information, "the nature of the charges is such that Olmert may be forced to resign in the near future."
Jones then mentioned that "at this point, we cannot predict how accurate Ben Eliezer's prediction is likely to be, and no one should discount Ehud Olmert's determination to hold on. But at a minimum, the latest charges represent an exceptionally unwelcome cloud over Olmert's head as he prepares to greet the President."
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