- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he didn’t think it was appropriate for former Secretary of State James Baker, who is advising Mr. Bush on foreign policy, to speak at the annual conference of the left-leaning J Street group earlier in the week, but also said he’s “honored” to have Mr. Baker’s counsel.

Mr. Baker hammered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship” at the event, according to Politico; a spokeswoman told the outlet that Mr. Bush disagreed and that his support for Israel and the prime minister was unwavering.

“Jim Baker is a statesman — he’s one of the great political and foreign policy leaders of our time,” Mr. Bush told Brian Kilmeade, host of FOX News Radio’s “Kilmeade & Friends” program, on Thursday. “He is a sage, smart man with a vast wealth of experience.”

Mr. Bush also said his address was not an “anti-Israeli speech at all” and that “he has a different view.”

“I did not believe that it was appropriate to go speak to J Street, a group that basically has anti-Israeli sentiments,” he said in the interview, as previously reported by Talking Points Memo. “But I have a vast array of people advising me, and I’m honored that Jim Baker is doing so.”

The remarks come as potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders are on the hustings stressing the need for strong U.S. support of Israel amid heightened tensions between Mr. Netanyahu and President Obama, who is trying to get a deal negotiated on Iran’s nuclear program.

In a piece for National Review published this week, Mr. Bush chided the Obama administration’s “diplomatic scolding” of Israel and said that “this is no time for schoolyard antics.”

“The fact that I have people that I might not agree with on every subject advising me shows leadership, frankly — I mean, I don’t think we need monolithic thinking here,” Mr. Bush said. “We need people that give advice, that share their experience and their advice in a way that I’ll filter it the way I filter it and move forward.”

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