debkafile: Bush-Olmert talks leave US and Israel divided on Palestinians’ claimed “right of return” and Iran nuclear threat
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush spoke to the press Wednesday, Jan. 9, after their talks on Day One of his first visit to Israel as US president.
Bush touched on a serious bone of contention when he referred to the “right of return” claimed for Palestinian refugees as an item on the agenda of final-status talks, although Israel stated in advance that the issue is non-negotiable.
Tuesday, Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed that the two negotiating teams would begin talks on “core issues” of the dispute immediately.
Asked whether the NIE report that Iran gave up its covert military program in 2003 did not leave Israel high and dry with the Iranian nuclear threat, Bush repeated his mantra: “Iran was a threat and will be a threat to world peace,” unless the world prevents its acquisition of know-how for building a bomb. But he stood by his conviction that the problem can be solved diplomatically.
In answer to another question, Bush said he would refer the incessant rocket attacks on Sderot to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, when they meet in Ramallah Thursday.
debkafile: The US president knows perfectly well that Abbas is incapable of combating terror on the West Bank, let alone the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Olmert stressed: There will be no peace until Palestinian terror is stopped everywhere. Gaza must be part of the package. Without Gaza, it will be hard to reach any understanding with the Palestinians.
Regarding the unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank, Bush commented mildly that Israel undertook to dismantle them four years ago and should do so.
Extraordinary security measures accompanied the American president’s 50-hour visit. Closure was imposed on Palestinian territories until Bush leaves Friday p.m.
Thursday, he meets Palestinian leaders in Ramallah and Israeli opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
Before he leaves Friday, George Bush will pay private visits to Bethlehem and Christian sites in Galilee. Noon, he flies out to continue his Middle East tour in Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Ahead of his arrival, foreign minister Saud al Faisal stressed that while the US president was welcome, the kingdom intended to keep on talking to Tehran.