By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: George W. Bush at the Israeli Knesset on May 15, 2008. Bush quoted from the speech he gave to the Knesset that day on Tuesday, Oct. 15, when referencing Iran during a speech at the gala of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Credit: White House photo by Shealah Craighead.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush made a surprise appearance at the
50th anniversary tribute gala of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations on Tuesday in New York, saying “you can’t trust Iran” when
it says its nuclear program has peaceful intentions.
One attendee of the event, speaking anonymously because the crowd was asked
not to record Bush’s comments, said Bush quoted from his May 2008 speech to the
Israeli Knesset. In that speech, the president said America stands with Israel
“in firmly opposing
Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.”
world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would
be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations,” Bush told the Knesset in
2008. “For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear
Bush on Tuesday also spoke about his relationship with the Conference of
Presidents, the umbrella organization for more than 50 national Jewish groups. According
to an attendee, Bush said the Jewish umbrella’s voice is extremely well informed and
helpful, and clearly respects the office of the U.S. president.
Israel is America’s best friend in the Middle
East, and the defense of Israel is not only an American value, but is in
America’s strategic interest, said Bush, who entered the room to a prolonged
applause from an audience previously unaware that he would appear.
The former president said he misses only
three things from his time in Washington, DC: not having to stop at stop
lights, getting to salute men and women in uniform, and retired U.S. Senator
Lieberman, a vice presidential candidate who
was the most prominent Sabbath observer on Capitol Hill, was in the room to
hear Bush’s compliment, as he had just presented an award to former Conference
of Presidents chairman James S. Tisch.
has kept a low profile since leaving office, rarely making public appearances
or statements—also said that it is not
beneficial for the U.S. to have a past president “bloviating” while the current
president is trying to run the country.
The Conference of Presidents event honored Malcolm Hoenlein, the
umbrella organization’s executive vice chairman since 1986. Bush joked that Hoenlein,
unlike U.S. presidents, has no term limits.
Alan Solow, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents, told JNS.org regarding Bush’s appearance, “I was delighted that
he joined us at this event.”
gala also included an opening video message from U.S. President Barack Obama. Hoenlein
said the fact that remarks from both Obama and Bush were featured demonstrates
the Conference of Presidents’ objective of “unity, with diversity.” Unity is
“the essence” of what the Jewish umbrella is trying to accomplish, while also
building respect for diversity, he explained.
“We brought all kinds of people from different points of view [to the gala],”
Hoenlein told JNS.org.