It's official. James Addison Baker III is coming to Israel as President Bush's personal envoy. President Bush announced this on the first day of the New Year: "He is yet to go to the Middle East, and he's going to let me know when he thinks the timing is good for that."

Regarding this upcoming visit, a Jerusalem official explained that Israel's understanding is that James Baker "is supposed to go around the world and try to convince countries to support the President. To keep a general maintenance program, to ensure that there are no surprises, that nothing rocks the boat for the president while he is in an election year."

Good news for Saudi Arabia. Very bad news for Israel.

James Baker III and Saudi Arabia

Certainly James Baker is not going to rock the boat in Saudi Arabia for President Bush, while he is in an election year. James Baker is considered to be a good friend by the Saudis. Since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has had, to put it delicately, a public relations problem. Saudi Arabia has had to dodge allegations that it had a hand in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi nationals.

The families of the September 11 victims have instituted a trillion-dollar class-action law suit against the Saudi government. In the months ahead, dozens of Saudi citizens (including Khalid bin Mahfouz) and institutions (including National Commercial Bank) will have to respond to suits in New York and Washington, D.C. Those suits name hundreds of defendants, including major Saudi banks, charities and certain members of the royal family, alleging liability for the attacks. And guess who is defending the Saudi government against this law suit? The law firm of the former Secretary of State under President George Herbert Walker Bush, President George W. Bush's father, James Baker.

The law firm of former Secretary of State James Baker III, Baker Botts, has long represented clients with interests in Saudi Arabia. The Baker Botts law firm was put in an even better position to pull in more work from Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2001, when President George W. Bush appointed Baker Botts partner, Robert Jordan, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Baker Botts made an appearance in D.C. Federal District Court for the Saudi Minister of Defense and Aviation, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. In a statement on behalf of Prince Sultan, Baker Botts called the claims that the prince and other Saudi royal family members assisted in terrorist attacks "utterly false".

Baker Botts has a powerful permanent presence in Saudi Arabia. It has nine main offices: Austin, Dallas, Houston, New York, Washington, London, Moscow, Baku (capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan) and, of course, Riyadh, in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Oil is not the only thing these power brokers handle. The firm boasts of expertise in "corporate crisis" and "white-collar criminal defense"; it is currently defending the CEO of Rite-Aid, who has been indicted of conspiracy and fraud. In the past, Baker Botts has also represented Enron.

Baker Botts is slickest when it comes to oil, but Baker himself has even wider interests. As senior counsel to the Carlyle Group, the investment firm long associated with Bush interests, Baker helps to oversee the operations of the nation's 10th-largest defense contractor, United Defense.

With all these wonderful connections, James Baker will have no problem to convince Saudi Arabia to support George W. Bush, and not to rock the boat for the president while he is in an election year.

Baker and Israel

Baker is not a friend of Israel, and that is the understatement of the year. In 1990, when he was Secretary of State in George H. W. Bush's cabinet, he publicly remonstrated with Israel: "When you are serious about peace, call us," then he gave out the White House telephone number. Also as Secretary of State, he was widely quoted as saying, "F*** the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway."

Colorful language, but Baker may have said this in a fit of anger at those "pesky" Jews. However, the following story illustrates Baker's strong hatred and disdain for Israel:

Shortly before assuming office as Secretary of State, Baker invited an interviewer from Time magazine to accompany him on a turkey hunt.

At one point during the hunt, when he was discussing Israel and the Arabs, Baker remarked: "The trick is in getting them where you want them, on your terms. Then you control the situation, not them. You have the options. Pull the trigger or don't. It doesn't matter once you've got them where you want them. The important thing is knowing that it's in your hands, that you can do whatever you determine is in your interest to do."

When the reporter asked Baker if he was referring to the turkeys, Baker replied, "No, I mean Israel." (Time magazine, February 13, 1989, as cited in a ZOA press release of June 7, 1996)

That is how James Baker III thinks of Israel, as turkeys to be hunted down, with himself as the hunter. As James Baker said, "The important thing is knowing that it's in your hands, that you can do whatever you determine is in your interest to do."

Unfortunately, Israel must assume that Baker, with his long-time friendship with Saudi Arabia, his law firm being one of Saudi Arabia's defense council in a trillion-dollar law suit against the Saudi royal family, the intertwined business interests of Saudi Arabia, and as senior council to the investment firm long associated with Bush interests, James Baker has no motivation to be evenhanded as far as Israel is concerned.

Isn't there a conflict of interest here?

President Bush and his Arabist State Department keep insisting that all Jewish (not Arab) settlement activity in the Hold Land must stop. James Baker's star pupil, Daniel Kurtzer is presently U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Daniel Kurtzer was the speech writer of Secretary of State James Baker. He actually coined the phrase "land for peace" to be used in one of Baker's policy speeches. Even though Kurtzer is supposedly an Orthodox Jew, he does not believe in the Biblical promises of Hashem with regard to the Land of Israel. With the same arrogance and disdain for Israel of his mentor James Baker, he issued a dictate to Israeli courts: "Do not to let the fact that Migron has submitted documents proving that it is a legal community on Jewish-owned land prevent its uprooting." (Kurtzer frequently issues orders to Israel as if he were the High Commissioner, rather than the U.S. Ambassador.) Why is U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer focusing on Migron? It seems that he had previously instructed Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz that Migron had to be the first Jewish "settlement" to be evacuated, so as to make possible a contiguous Palestinian State.

It is difficult to understand President Bush's insistence on creating a Palestinian terrorist state in the Holy Land, thereby depriving the Jewish people of their rightful heritage. But, as it has often been said, in politics there are no friends, only interests. And unfortunately, the United States perceives its interests to be to placate Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world.

Yes, the situation looks very bad. The Sharon government has been under increasing pressure to dismantle 100 so-called illegal outposts. The Arabist U.S. State Department designates an illegal outpost as any community the Jews are trying to build in their own Biblical heartland of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has folded completely under American pressure. Therefore, many Israelis see the dismantling of "outposts" as the first step in Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank (Judea and Gaza) and the Gaza Strip.

What can we do? Let us not consent to be James Baker's turkeys!

We can be sure that there is much pressure from the Bush administration. And continual and strong pressure at that. But in the years from Israel's rebirth in 1948 until 1992, Israeli prime ministers often had to defy very heavy U.S. pressure. For example:

1948/9: U.S. pressure on David Ben-Gurion, with threats of economic sanctions, to refrain from a declaration of independence.

1967: The U.S., the U.S.S.R. and the U.N. pressured Levi Eshkol to refrain from a pre-emptive strike and from reuniting Jerusalem.

1981: The U.S., U.S.S.R., Europe and the U.N. threatened Menachem Begin with military and economic sanctions, lest he bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor.

Nonetheless, previous prime ministers were able to successfully withstand the incredibly strong pressure of the U.S. The world and the U.S. are more likely to respect a "non-punching bag Israel". Furthermore, strong democratic, undivided Israel, as promised to the Jews, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, is not only in Israel's interest, but in America's interest as well.

[Please forward this article to all your friends, President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney. Your Senators and Congressman can be reached by calling the Capitol Hill Switchboard at (202)456-6212 or (202)224-3121.]

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