Jerusalem, May 14, 2008 … President George W. Bush -- beginning his historic visit to Israel on the 60th anniversary of statehood -- hailed the Jewish state as "one of the world's great democracies" and "one of America's oldest and best friends in the world."
"I'm honored to be representing our country here for the 60th anniversary of the existence of the state of Israel," President Bush said at a press conference in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "It's just a great honor, and it's a chance for me to express the enduring friendship of the American people with the Israeli people.
"It's also an interesting time to come because, you know, here we are in the heart of a thriving democracy and yet that democracy, as are other democracies, are being challenged by extremists and terrorists -- people who use violence to try to advance their dark vision of the world."
Prime Minister Olmert told President Bush that Israel "is making an exceptional effort on all fronts" in talks with the Palestinians to negotiate a two-state solution to the conflict, including on issues of borders, refugees and security.
Speaking before the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, a gathering of world leaders sponsored by President Shimon Peres, President Bush noted that Israel has remained under constant threat of terrorism from extremists bent on its destruction, but that had not stopped its determination to succeed as a democracy and open society, despite being surrounded by enemies.
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, is a member of the President's official U.S. Honorary Delegation to Israel. He was slated to speak in a panel discussion at the Presidential Conference on "The Jewish People: In Need of a Good Publicist." He was also present for President Bush's keynote address to the conference.
"The President's presence and message to the state and people of Israel demonstrates his great appreciation of its six-decades of accomplishments and very being, and his continued commitment to Israel's safety and security," Mr. Foxman said.
In Jerusalem in the run-up to the presidential visit, Mr. Foxman participated in a conference of The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, where he was joined by Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair, for a series of working groups among distinguished leaders on short and long-term issues of primary concern to the Jewish people.
President Bush's remarks about the terrorist threat to Israel came amid renewed rocket attacks aimed at civilian areas by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.
A Katyusha rocket launched from Gaza struck a shopping mall in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, wounding at least 10 people, including young children. It was the latest in an ongoing barrage of rocket salvos targeting Israel civilian areas, orchestrated by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which controls Gaza.
Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations have prompted some pro-Palestinian activists in the West Bank and Gaza, and in the United States and other countries, to launch protests around the theme of the "nakba," or catastrophe.
In "Playing the Nakba Card," his latest blog entry on the Web site of The Jerusalem Post, Mr. Foxman discussed how Israel's 60th anniversary has given rise to frequent references to the "nakba" in the news media and by pro-Palestinian groups. He explained why this simplistic narrative of Palestinian displacement belies the more complex realities of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
In the U.S., ADL continues to report on and monitor anti-Israel events surrounding the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding as well as efforts to miscast the events surrounding the establishment of Israel in 1948 as "ethnic cleansing."