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Monday, May 15, 2006

American Jewish Leaders to Olmert: Don't Try to Schnorr in Washington

The New York Sun is reporting that American Jewish leaders are advising Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to try to extract funding from the Bush administration for last summer's Gaza surrender or for Olmert's prospective convergence expulsion plan. The timing is bad and the newer plan has not yet been sold to the Bush administration:

There are two primary problems with Israel asking for an aid package now, according to Jewish community officials in America and one Bush administration official. First, the president is already involved in a tough sell to conservative members of Congress for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This being an election year and Mr. Bush will likely push for government spending to be reined in to appeal to his fiscally conservative base.

Another problem is that Mr. Olmert's aides have yet to brief the president on his new consolidation package, a plan that was unveiled in broad terms this week. The proposal envisions disengaging from some West Bank settlements perhaps as soon as December.

Should the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority reject an offer to negotiate a final settlement, some Israeli observers have said Mr. Olmert will seek to draw Israel's final borders by the end of 2008, while President Bush is still in office

On May 24, Mr. Olmert will address a joint meeting, though not a joint official session, of Congress. He will meet Mr. Bush at the White House on May 23. But beyond this stagecraft, it's unclear what else Mr. Olmert will end up receiving in terms of support for his unilateral disengagement plan.

While the White House has declared it will not have dealings with Hamas, the European Union has been less firm, and Mr. Bush will need his allies' goodwill to support sanctions or tougher measures against Iran.

"Looking at this from an American perspective, this would be a terrible time to ask for the aid package, given all the budgetary difficulties," a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Morris Amitay, said yesterday.

When asked if Israel could expect the money it believes it was promised for the Gaza withdrawal, Mr. Amitay used a Yiddish expression: "It's farfallen, forget about it."


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