At a ceremony to celebrate Israel's Independence Day, the governor lauded Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's most recent peace plan.
By Associated Press
Published April 27, 2004
DELRAY BEACH - Gov. Jeb Bush pledged to support Israel in its battle against terrorism and said Americans have a better understanding of the fear Israelis face daily after living through the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a Monday speech celebrating Israel's 56th Independence Day, Bush lauded his brother, President Bush, for reinforcing the alliance between the two countries at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Gov. Bush said the April 14 meeting "made little doubt about our country's commitment to Israel and the vision of two states living in peace and security."
At the meeting, President Bush endorsed Sharon's offer to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in exchange for concessions on settlements. The move showed Bush's frustration with the Palestinians, who criticized the plan.
"This new United States policy, I think, will bring about the chance of lasting peace far better than the current status quo," Gov. Bush said. "And if there's any attempt to impose a different vision, the United States is committed to intervene and provide support to the state of Israel."
Garnering support among Florida's traditionally Democratic Jewish community could be crucial for the re-election of President Bush this fall. Florida has the fifth-highest Jewish population in the United States.
Last week, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry appealed for support from Jewish voters in the state. He was joined by Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has a loyal following in Florida's Jewish community.
At Monday's ceremony at Temple Emeth, Bush shared center stage with Rabbi Richard Yellin, Israeli Consul General Mickey Arbel and U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democrat.
Wexler said the festivities helped call attention to what will become a significant issue in the upcoming campaign: the American-Israeli relationship and the evolving peace process.
During his comments before the crowd of more than 500, Wexler called on the United States to lead efforts with Egypt, Jordan and other nations to support Palestinian antiterror institutions and Israeli defenses.
Along with Bush, Wexler said the fight against terrorist groups have created a significant bond between Israel and the United States. "We understand that terrorism - in any form or supported by any nation - must meet a swift, definitive and unequivocal response," he said. "We know that incitement and hate pose the most significant obstacles to peace. And we know that terrorism incurs irreparable pain and loss."
The Israeli Independence Day honors soldiers killed in war.