Bush, in memoir, says Olmert asked U.S. to strike Syria
WASHINGTON - George W. Bush's memoir will arrive in bookstores this week, but senior members of the current U.S. administration have little to worry about: The 43rd president of the United States was very careful not to criticize his successor.
The Israeli leadership, however, has good reason to preorder "Decision Points," a book describing the 14 most difficult decisions Bush made during his eight years in the White House.
The former president wrote that in 2007, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert asked him to bomb a nuclear facility in Syria. Bush was given an intelligence report on the suspicious, well-concealed facility, and Olmert then asked him in a phone conservation to bomb the site, concerned that the Syrians were developing nuclear weapons with North Korean assistance.
"George, I'm asking you to bomb the compound," he quoted Olmert as saying.
Bush, who had been burned once by false reports of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which led him to invade that country, answered, "bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback" unless his own intelligence agencies could confirm that plans to develop nuclear weapons were involved.
Then-CIA chief Mike Hayden could confirm that there was a reactor, but not that the program was military.
Bush wrote that Olmert was disappointed, even terming Bush's response "very disturbing."
He also denied approving an Israeli strike on the Syrian facility. "Prime Minister Olmert hadn't asked for a green light, and I hadn't given one," Bush wrote. "He had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel."
Bush wrote that the strike in some sense compensated Olmert for the Second Lebanon War in 2006. While that military operation had weakened Hezbollah and helped secure the border, Israel's "military performance cost them international credibility."
Bush's approval ratings were at a low when Barack Obama won the presidency, and he has kept a low profile since, even postponing publication of his book until after the midterm elections.
But the former president recently gave interviews that offered several revelations. One of them was what Bush considered the lowest point in his presidency: when rapper Kanye West, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, "called me a racist" and said the president "didn't care about black people."
Bush told Matt Lauer of NBC, "I resent it. It's not true."