debkafile: Olmert’s belated discovery of a serious breach with Washington prompted him to disinter the Middle East roadmap
The Israeli prime minister informed the cabinet Sunday Sept 10 that the time had come to reach for a “diplomatic horizon.” Offering to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “without pre-conditions,” he brought back to life the moribund Middle East road map.
So what happened to his realignment plan which filled all the empty space on his campaign platform only six months ago?
The answer lies in Washington, where he is in very hot water with the Bush administration. First, the White House was angered by the way Olmert, defense minister Amir Peretz and foreign minister Tzipi Livni mismanaged the Lebanon war and, in doing so, got in the way of America’s plans for Iran.
This was followed by a further complaint: During his May visit to Washington, the Israeli prime minister presented the US president and the two Houses of Congress his realignment (aka convergence) plan for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank. He asked for American support and received it with an ovation.
Two and a half months later, that same prime minister ditched his realignment plan – only forgetting to drop a word to Washington. That was too much for the administration to swallow. Olmert was given to understand that it was totally unacceptable for him to discard a Middle East program taken seriously and adopted by the US government like an old shoe.
It was only then that Olmert began to realize the extent of the damage he had caused US-Israel relations. Last weekend, he sent his senior advisers, Yoram Turbovitch and Shalom Turjman, to Washington to pour oil on troubled waters.
But they were ill-prepared. Confronted by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, the two Israeli officials announced Olmert was ready to make a fresh start with a new plan. What plan?
Since there was no plan, the prime minister’s office decided to give the Middle East roadmap the kiss of life for the umpteenth time and invite Abu Mazen to return to the game as a player.
Most Israelis received the news with a yawn (|We’ve been there before). But the Labor ministers, the prime minister and foreign minister grabbed eagerly for the suddenly floating roadmap as a lifesaver for their sinking administration. These events took place during the weekend break in Washington. So no US response can be expected before Monday.