Powered by WebAds

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bush: Abbas a 'partner for peace', Olmert an 'honest guy'

I'm debating which of the two headlines above is more ridiculous. Both came from an interview that the JPost's David Horovitz and three other Israeli journalists conducted with US President George W. Bush in the oval office in preparation for his trip to Israel this week.
Bush said that dealing with the Middle East is the top priority in these last months of his administration. He told the Post that Iran was an incredibly negative regime but that "we're pushing back hard" and all options remain on the table for trying to thwart Iran's nuclear drive. He was not prepared to say, however, that he was confident of blocking that nuclear program before he left office.

Bush stressed that although the US wields considerable influence, it can not impose peace on Israel and the Palestinians. Therefore he was coming to Israel this week, he said, to encourage rather than demand progress. He said he still strongly believed an Israeli-Palestinian accord could be reached this year.

Turning to the issue of Syria, Bush said he had never demanded that Israel abstain from a dialogue with Damascus but made plain the Unites States' own opposition to warming ties with Syria so long as Damascus was sponsoring terrorism. He said it was up to Israel's politicians to come up with a vision of how to meet Israel's security needs and that he had never told Olmert what to do as regards to Israel's security.

The president was in notably amiable mood and spoke off the record at some length about the fundamental moral principles that underpin his presidential philosophy. He said he would elaborate on that thinking in his Knesset speech this week.

Bush is set to leave Washington for Israel on Tuesday, accompanied by his wife, on a trip to mark the 60th anniversary of the state. But the president is also flying on to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for a series of meetings with other Middle Eastern leaders.

It is a tour said by his National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to have been designed to "demonstrate the president's steadfast opposition to extremists and their state sponsors, Iran and Syria, who are expending enormous energy to thwart opportunities for security, freedom and peace in the region."

Bush is to meet on Wednesday with President Peres and Prime Minister Olmert, and speak briefly at Peres's international anniversary conference. On Thursday, he will tour Masada, address the Knesset and meet Quartet envoy Tony Blair. And on Friday, he and his wife will participate in a roundtable with young Israelis. [Note - NO meeting scheduled with opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. CiJ]

Only later in the trip, in Egypt, will he meet with Palestinian leaders, while no top-level three-way American-Israeli-Palestinian meeting has been scheduled. Hadley said last week that this was because "the bilateral conversations between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators seem to be going pretty well... And this did not seem the time for a big high-level, three-way event with the president and the prime minister and President Abbas. It just doesn't feel right as the best way to advance the negotiations."

Instead, later Friday, the first couple will leave Israel and fly on to Saudi Arabia, where their visit coincides with the 75th anniversary of the formal establishment of US-Saudi relations. [Will the Saudis allow them to fly directly? CiJ] On Saturday, in Sharm el Sheikh, Bush will meet with Abbas, and, separately, with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. On Sunday, he meets Jordan's King Abdullah, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Iraqi leaders.

Bush's original schedule also provided for a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. [Ooops. I guess that one won't happen. CiJ] Finally, Bush is to address the World Economic Forum's Sharm meeting, before leaving Egypt and heading home.

All these various talks, said Hadley last week, "will be an opportunity to reaffirm the president's commitment to the freedom agenda in the Middle East and the search for peace" - an agenda that has since been challenged afresh by the current Hizbullah-inspired instability in Lebanon.


Unsurprisingly, Hadley would not be drawn on the impact of the latest Olmert investigation, although he did indicate that the prime minister was not personally indispensable. Olmert, said the national security adviser, "has obviously been a very important part of these peace negotiations. But again, remember, these are negotiations going on between the government of Israel and the Palestinian administration... that involve representatives from other members of the Israeli government..."
I'm sure Olmert will be pleased to hear that last line. Heh.


At 5:36 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I'm sure Olmert doesn't like the fact he's not indispensable to the Americans anymore than he is indispensable to Kadima. With his current legal troubles, the last thing he can do anyway now is to advance the "peace process." The meetings in the Middle East this week are more staged photo op than an announcement of a substantiative breakthrough.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

So Bush is not going to speak to Bibi, and thinks Olmert is an 'honest guy'. He must get his info from Condi.

And to honor Israel's 60th anniversary, he then schlepps to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.



Post a Comment

<< Home