On the Plane

Hobnobbing in the Holy Land

Jerusalem -- Just before President Bush left for Israel this week, the White House named an "honorary delegation" of some 80 prominent American Jews, big-time GOP donors and others to accompany him to the celebration of the Jewish state's 60th anniversary.

It turns out you don't get too much for being in that group -- no ride on Air Force One for example. That's not a problem for some in the delegation: Former New York Times columnist William Safire told me he was able to hitch a ride on publisher Mort Zuckerman's jet along with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is not an honorary delegate but was coming for "big ideas" conference being sponsored here by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Thursday night, Bush delivered on perhaps the one perk available to the delegates, an invitation to an elaborate reception in the sculpture garden of the Israeli Museum. The museum is home to the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and the rare Isaiah Scroll, which has been brought out especially for the 60th anniversary and is not yet on public display, according to the pool report by my New York Times colleague Sheryl Stolberg.

--Michael Abramowitz

Bush appears to have been in a good mood all week -- no doubt owing in part to the lavish encomiums he's been hearing from Israeli officials -- and he alluded in brief remarks to the sea of familiar faces who have accompanied him to Israel. "I'm driving in the limousine, waving at friendly faces, half of whom seem to be from California," the president said. "I hope you're having as much fun as we are. It's been a -- it's been such a fantastic couple of days for us. And what a fitting way to end with our buddies from the United States of America."

Among the buddies, there are a number of big-time GOP donors who accompanied Bush on his first-ever trip to Israel in 1998, when he was Texas governor and took a famous helicopter ride over the country with then-Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon. They include Houston businessman Fred Zeidman, the chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's governing council; former ambassador and Florida developer Mel Sembler; and the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Cliff Sobel.

There's also Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul who has become influential in Republican and Jewish philanthropic circles. Adelson has seemed ubiquitous this week. He and his wife Miriam were greeted personally by Bush when the president showed up Wednesday night at the big birthday celebration at the Jerusalem conference center. It might have helped that Adelson contributed a reported $3 million to help fund Peres' ideas conference.

Meanwhile, a couple of Hollywood actors also showed up for the festivities. When Bush arrived Thursday to speak at the Israeli Knesset, one of the guests drawing attention was Jon Voigt of "Midnight Cowboy" fame (or perhaps more apt, father of Angelina Jolie).

It wasn't clear why Voigt was there, but others in the audience definitely wanted their picture taken with him. Also present was actor Ron Silver, who actually IS a member of the honorary delegation. (He turns out to be a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace -- who knew?!) That probably made it the only time the Knesset has been graced by the presence of Dershowitz and an actor who played him in a movie (Silver starred in "Reversal of Fortune").

Bush was leaving Jerusalem this morning on route to Riyadh to meet Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and celebrate the 75th year of U.S.-Saudi relations. No word on whether he's bringing any celebrities to this party.

By Washington Post Editor |  May 16, 2008; 5:44 AM ET  | Trip:  Rice in Middle East and Europe, March 2008
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A plane with Dershowitz, Zuckerman and Safire together? Hilarious. No doubt the plane tilted to the right all the way. God, but they deserve each other.

Posted by: Piloti | May 16, 2008 8:07 AM

Jewish zionists - neocons - control american democracy becasue they are the wealthiest americans. This leads to other americans dying for the sake of apartheid israel. A viscious loop that will never break down until americans wake up.

Posted by: TruthOrDare | May 16, 2008 10:56 AM


Running out of (substantive) stuff to write about? Or, (brain)casual Friday?

Posted by: Relford Wipple | May 16, 2008 10:57 AM

Pff, calling Israel an "apartheid" state is like blaming China for its "apartheid" policies when it built a humungous wall to keep out the Mongols.

Posted by: Rory | May 16, 2008 11:48 AM

I wonder what the "big ideas" conference will entail? Maybe ideas on how Israel can continue to be the main beneficiary of American support in the region in the face of inevitable change. Regardless, the next 60 years for Israel cannot be a repeat of the past. It will require "big ideas" for the Israeli government to maintain the status quo.

Posted by: Nadine | May 16, 2008 12:04 PM

Dershowitz, Adelson, Zeidman, Sembler, Sobel, Zuckerman, the neocon founding father Safire...just some of our real rulers along for the ride with their idiotic "gentile" puppet-boy. (Why, I saw in a photo that the Israelis presented our fearless leader with another mountain bike for his collection, and he went merrily tooling around on it. Toss a banana to the good little chimp!) These American Zionists have never had it so good as in the last seven years of manipulation of our foreign policy.

Posted by: Anthony | May 16, 2008 12:56 PM

The next time America undertake an adventure in the middle east, we need to ask, what's in it for us, yes U.S. "We the people"...

Posted by: JoeBlack | May 16, 2008 2:09 PM

60 years there will be no Israel. Demographically the Jewish homeland is doomed.

Posted by: Ron | May 16, 2008 3:00 PM

Hitler was right...

Posted by: fwonschik | May 16, 2008 4:03 PM

Well, I am glad for this report. It tells us everything we need to know.

Posted by: cms1 | May 16, 2008 8:42 PM

Personally, I'm disgusted.

Posted by: Andy | May 17, 2008 10:35 AM

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