Bush Blames Israel for Passivity against Hizballah and Hamas
While extending warm congratulations for Israel’s 60th anniversary, making pledges of eternal American friendship and spreading general bonhomie, President George W. Bush’s tone in tight conversations with Israel’s leaders was anything but cordial.
In fact, the members of his party were instructed to take prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni severely to task.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Jerusalem sources report exclusively that Bush, continuing in the role of friend, ordered his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, to give Olmert, Barak and Livni a proper dressing-down for sitting on their hands in the face of Hamas’ and Hizballah’s aggression.
Hadley said bluntly that Israel’s leaders were to blame more than anyone else for disastrous developments in Lebanon. You went to war in the summer of 2006 and asked for our support, he reminded them, and you got every possible backing. But since then you have not raised a finger against Hizballah, letting it rearm, triple its rocket arsenal, build the mightiest shore-to-ship missile deployment in the Middle East along the Lebanese coast, instal an independent military telecommunications system and, in the end, capture Beirut.
And what did you do to stop all this happening? Nothing.
Hadley took his accusations further: By standing idle, Olmert and Barak, he said, had encouraged Hizballah to go all the way while hanging out to dry the two forces loyal to the Siniora government. With Israeli backing, Saad Hariri’s Sunni loyalists and Samir Geagea’s Christian Phalangists might have stepped forward to stop the Shiite terrorists.
Bush’s national security adviser all but accused Israel of responsibility for the debacle the United States and the West sustained in the last ten days in Lebanon.
Olmert sharply rebuked for putting up with Hamas missiles
He also sharply rebuked the Olmert government for putting up with the Palestinian Hamas’ aggression from the Gaza Strip.
According to an Israeli briefing to the American visitors, Hamas is now capable of shooting hundreds of missiles and rockets per day against Israeli targets, while Hizballah has raised its daily capacity to 800 rockets.
The American officials’ reaction was to ask what the Israeli government was doing about the rockets aside from watching them fall.
Monday, May 12, by which time Hizballah had clinched its capture of Beirut, one of America’s staunchest allies in the Middle East, Egypt’s intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman, arrived in Jerusalem for talks on the Gaza crisis with Israeli officials.
Without mentioning Lebanon, although one of his functions is a role in keeping Hizballah at bay, the Egyptian minister put before Olmert, Barak and Livni a new plan to engage instead of confronting Hamas. At the end of the road, he said, there would be a limited truce in exchange for lifting the blockade on Hamas-governed Gaza Strip and opening all its border crossings to Israel and Egypt.
He was proposing a complete reversal of the economic and physical boycott policy which the United States, Egypt and Israel had pursued from June 2007.
After discussing the plan for some hours, prime minister Olmert said he accepted it in principle, but asked the Egyptian general to summon Hamas leaders to return to Cairo and get them to offer better terms.
Gen. Suleiman accepted the challenge. He arranged for his next interview with Hamas to take place Sunday, May 18.
Bush pulls Olmert back from accepting Hamas truce terms
Meanwhile, Wednesday, May 14, Bush arrived in Jerusalem and, at the first opportunity, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, asked Olmert if the report he had received on his discussion with the Egyptian intelligence minister in Jerusalem was correct.
OImert confirmed that it was.
In that case, the US president shot back, you had better notify Omar Suleiman that the United States refuses to talk to Hamas or lift the boycott on the Gaza Strip.
Left with no other option, the Israeli prime minister instructed his aides to inform Suleiman that he too was backing out of his acceptance of the truce plan.
Upon receiving this message, the Egyptian minister hastened to pass it on to Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.
A few hours later, Wednesday night at 1800 hours local time, the Hamas command gave a team of Ahmed Jibril’s Palestinian Popular Front – General Command the go-ahead signal to let loose with a brand-new Iranian-made Katyusha rocket against the three-storey shopping mall of the Israeli town of Ashkelon, 16 km north of the Gaza Strip.
The team had just arrived in Gaza through Sinai, fresh from a special course in precision launching of surface rockets at an Iranian Revolutionary Guards base near Tehran.
The rocket struck the crowded mall which serves the town’s population of 150,000, destroying the roof and leaving 100 people injured.
This damage was wrought by a single rocket. The appalling impact of the hundreds the Palestinians are capable of shooting every day is unimaginable.
The conclusion DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s political sources drew from the Bush party’s encounters with Israeli leaders was that the pretence kept up by Olmert, Barak and Livni -that the Israeli army is being held back from fighting the terrorist perils from Gaza and Lebanon by Washington – has been punctured as a sham. The reality is just the opposite.