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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 06, 2003

BUSH: We'll Finish The Job That Israeli Hero Started

This short piece says a lot.
JERUSALEM - President Bush consoled the children of Israel's first astronaut by telling them he would finish the job begun by their father - who bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor.
During a memorial service in Houston on Tuesday, Bush praised Ilan Ramon, an Israeli Air Force colonel, along with the six other Columbia crew members who perished.

Afterward, the president embraced some of four Ramon's children and asked them to "tell me about your father," Israeli newspapers reported yesterday.

The children told Bush their father was a jet-fighter pilot who destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 when Israel feared it would be used to develop atomic weapons.

"Your father started the job," Bush told them. "And I am going to finish it."

During the ceremony, Bush hailed Ramon as "a patriot" and son of Holocaust survivors who fought in two wars.

He said Ramon, 48, had spoken about the peace he would encounter in space.

"I only hope that the quiet can one day spread to my country," Bush quoted him as saying.

Although Ramon's role in the 1981 raid had been rumored for years, Israel never confirmed it until the day of Columbia's final launch last month.

U.S. officials condemned the bombing of the Osirak reactor near Baghdad at the time but later said it had set back Saddam's covert bid for atomic weapons.

Ramon recalled the raid during an Israeli interview that was conducted shortly after the attack and aired for the first time Sunday.

Ramon, dressed in his pilot's jumpsuit, also spoke of the dangers of his profession.

"In the field, there are so many different things that can go wrong, you have no way of knowing what will happen," he said.