debkafile Exclusive: Bush forces Hamas down Israel’s throat in Jerusalem. Olmert government is stunned

Sunday night Jan 8, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice discussed the forthcoming Palestinian elections to the legislative council on the telephone with Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen.
Jerusalem was not briefed, debkafile‘s political sources report.
Twelve hours later, the US consul in Jerusalem Jacob Walles visited Abu Mazen’s office in Ramallah with an oral message from President George W. Bush. According to our sources, it was a presidential guarantee that all the Palestinian parties running for election on Jan 25 would be allowed to campaign openly in East Jerusalem, eligible voters in the city would be permitted to cast their votes through local post offices, and the voter slips of all Palestinian parties without exception would be available in the balloting booths.
The Israeli government was not informed of the extraordinary step taken by Bush over its head and in respect of Israeli sovereign territory.
The step has some disturbing implications:
1. The Bush administration took advantage of Ehud Olmert’s having been less than a week in the job of acting prime minister and treated his reluctance to undertake firm decisions – as long as prime minister Ariel Sharon’s condition was uncertain -as a leadership vacuum in Jerusalem. Without a word, administration officials marked down the goings-on around Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem and Olmert’s slowness to rise to the challenge.
3. Olmert’s failure to come down decisively on the Jerusalem issue has a serious consequence: Washington’s intercession enables the terrorist Hamas group to fly its green flags and hold rallies on Temple Mount with its standard calls for jihad against Israel, as well as piling its voter slips at Israeli government post offices as an option for the Palestinian voter. By this device, the backhanded recognition of a Palestinian terrorist organization sworn to destroy the Jewish state has been thrust down the interim government’s throat.
4. The Bush administration showed no consideration for Olmert’s efforts to find his feet as head of government, bid for the leadership of Kadima party and fight a tough election.
Governing circles in Jerusalem were stunned by the White House action. They asked if Bush wanted Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud to win the March election having awarded him the edge on the Jerusalem issue. Part of the shock derived from the Israeli ministers’ mistaken conviction that Abu Mazen would postpone the election to prevent the Hamas beating his ruling Fatah. debkafile‘s sources repeatedly reported that the White House would insist on the Palestinian vote taking place on schedule – even at the price of a Hamas win and regardless of Sharon’s indisposition and a transitional administration very much at sea in Jerusalem.
There are still hopes in Israeli government circles that the two US officials David
Welch and Elliot Abrams due this week will help moderate some of the particulars of the Bush pledge to the Palestinian leader. But the chances of this are slim.

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