Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent his condolences to the family of the late 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.Bush’s died on late Friday at his home in Houston at the age of 94. The death was announced by his son former President George W. Bush, who praised his father as “a man of the highest character.”
“The people of Israel will always remember his commitment to Israel’s security, his important contribution to the liberation of the Jewry of the Soviet Union, and his efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East at the Madrid Conference,” Netanyahu said.
The Prime Minister also remarked that Bush was a “great American patriot” and praised “his wise leadership” at the end of the Cold War that “helped lead the world to a peaceful transition and the spread of democracy.
President Reuven Rivlin also issued a statement praising Bush for his help in bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel and his “determination to ensure that the Arab world recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.
“We have lost an American hero, George H.W. Bush, who fought in World War II, knew how to distinguish between good and evil and how to build strong regional coalitions against cruel tyrants,” the Rivlin said.
Bush believed that peace in the Middle East was key to U.S. interests and that the 1990 Gulf War had opened the opportunity for negotiations.
In this regard, his Administration sponsored the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, which brought Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization to the negotiating table for the first and only time.
Netanyahu held the position of Deputy Foreign Minister during the Madrid Conference and served there as Israel’s chief spokesperson.
The talks, which were conceived as a platform for launching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, were resisted by then Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir, who strongly supported settlements in the West Bank.
Eventually, Shamir consented to the talks because the Bush Administration withheld billions of dollars in U.S. guarantees for Israel that was trying to absorb a huge wave of immigration from the Jews of the former Soviet Union.
The Madrid Conference was seen as the key event leading up to the signing of the Oslo Accords, two years later, which formally established the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the creation of the Palestinian Authority.
Despite occasional tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, Bush maintained traditional U.S. support for Israel and played a key role in facilitating the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.