How ‘lonely little’ George H.W. Bush changed the US-Israel relationship

The 41st president beat AIPAC, but lost 24% of his Jewish backing after confronting Israel over the settlements; it’s a lesson US leaders since have taken to heart

2 December 2018

WASHINGTON — Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren once castigated Barack Obama for not abiding by the principle of “no daylight” and “no surprises.” That was most reflected, the Israeli diplomat emphasized, in Obama’s publicly castigating Israel’s settlements.

But Obama was not the first president to make Israeli settlements such a point of contention. Former president George H.W. Bush, who died Friday night, went much further than him, in fact.

Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, forever changed American politics when he exerted his power to curtail the settlement enterprise and faced a vehement backlash.

He made clear the cost of an American president waging a political fight against the vast coalition of pro-Israel lobbying groups. In doing so, he exposed the limits of what the world’s most powerful man can do when trying to solve the world’s seemingly most intractable conflict.