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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

When Jeb Bush helped launch a covert mission to rescue Ethiopian Jews from starvation

25

March

Jeb Bush this week has worked to assert his pro-Israel credentials after criticism from the right surfaced over comments James Baker, an adviser to Bush’s presidential campaign in waiting, made about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bush first issued a statement distancing himself from Baker’s remarks, made to the liberal J Street on Monday, and on Wednesday, penned a National Review column bashing the Obama administration's relationship with Israel. This afternoon Bush's PAC put out an email soliciting donations to support candidates who “stand with Israel against a nuclear Iran.”

What Bush hasn’t mentioned is his role in a little-remembered secret mission to rescue an obscure sect of Jews from starvation.

As head of the Miami-Dade GOP in the early 1980s, Bush became a fixer of sorts, "tooling around Dade in a silver Thunderbird," as a Miami Herald story put it. He was not shy about contacting the White House when issues arose, sometimes to the annoyance of officials there, including, it seems, Baker, who was President Reagan’s chief of staff.

“James Baker explained several times that the White House could not be involved in any exemption decision,” a presidential aide wrote in a memo after Jeb Bush passed along a complaint from a supporter about federal noise regulations at airports.

In 1984, Bush heard from a Miami attorney Ron Krongold about Ethiopian Jews who had fled their homeland due to famine for a refugee camp in Sudan. Bush, according to a report a decade later in the Herald, tipped off his Vice President father and the U.S. got involved in a top-secret mission, “Operation Moses,” to rescue them.

Thousands of people were airlifted to Israel, though the U.S. involvement dealt with hundreds of those, according to news reports at the time.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:16pm]

    

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