U.S. President George Bush appeared to have been moved to tears during his visit Friday morning at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. As he viewed many of the exhibits showing scenes from Auschwitz and other death camps where many of approximately 6 million Jews perished during WWII, Bush, who was accompanied by Israeli notables such as Prime Minister Olmert, President Shimon Peres, former Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid (himself a Holocaust survivor) and Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, was said to have shed tears at least twice.
As he viewed the exhibits, the President appeared to be so moved that he was quoted from Shalev as saying “we should have bombed it (Auschwitz) ” in reference to the map of the camp compound that was supposed to have been the one that then President Franklin D. Roosevelt was shown when he decided not to have U.S. Air Corps bombers attack during bombing raids in the later months of WWII.
Bush was said to have made this statement following his placing a wreath on a memorial containing the ashes of Jews murdered at six extermination camps, including Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, Buchenwald, and Treblinka. This was the President’s first personal visit to Yad Vashem as he did not visit it during his visit as Governor of Texas in 1998. Though he did not appear to express it, he surely can testify that nobody can deny that the Holocaust existed, and in such a terrible scale.
That Bush was moved by his visit to the memorial, as well as his visit to the Jewish State is indicated in the words he wrote in the Yad Vashem guest book: “God bless Israel, George Bush”. He also made the point of shaking hands with members of a choir composed of young Israeli schoolgirls and posed with them for pictures.
The President ended his visit to Israel with a short tour of the Galilee and Lake Kineret, including the Christian holy sites of Capernaum and the Church of Beatitudes, where historian say Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. The next stop on Bush’s Mid East tour is the Persian Gulf State of Kuwait. Though no final agreements were made by either Israel or the Palestinians during Bush’s short visit, the President seemed optimistic that a peace treaty will be made between the parties by the end of his term as President. He did note that Jerusalem “will be a problem” in regards to solving its final status.
The meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian officials have not concluded what will be done in regards to the Palestinians living in Hamas controlled Gaza, who took to the streets and demonstrated loudly against Bush’s visit, which did not include any contact with Hamas leader and former P.A. Prime Minister Ismail Hananyeh. These protests also included firing 12 Kassam rockets and at least 11 mortar rounds at the Israeli town of Sderot and nearby areas.
Bush said that he is willing to return to the region before his term expires to help implement a final peace agreement The only problem here is how to include 1.5 millions Palestinians whose leaders do not seem willing to go along with what their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank are involved in. Bush will most likely be pondering this problem during the remainder of his 8 day Middle East visit.