Israel has begun to examine the prospect of cooler relations with the United States.
Officials said the Israel Foreign Ministry has been drafting studies on the ramifications of the November 7 elections for Congress as well as an expected U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. They said both events could lead to a revision of U.S. policies toward Israel and the Middle East.
“We see 2007 as a year of change in U.S. policy in the Middle East,” an official said.
Officials said a win by the Democratic Party in congressional elections would accelerate expected changes in U.S. policy in the Middle East. They envisioned a replacement of the current Republican Party chairs of leading security and defense committees with Democrats who would press for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
“The start of a U.S. pullout from Iraq is likely in 2007, and the pace of such a withdrawal would depend on who controls Congress,” an official said. “It would have significant ramifications for Israel, which has come to depend on the U.S. military presence to bolster deterrence against Iran and Syria.”
Officials said a bipartisan Iraq Study Group was expected to present recommendations for the U.S. military presence in Iraq later in November. They said the group would probably urge a pullout in 2007 accompanied by a U.S. effort to improve relations with Syria and press Israel for concessions to the Palestinian Authority.
“We already see a decline in U.S. involvement in the Middle East, particularly regarding Iran,” another Israeli official said.
At this point, officials said, the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not discussed the prospects for changes in U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. They said the subject has been examined in the Foreign Ministry and National Security Council.
Olmert plans to visit the United States in mid-November. He was scheduled to meet President George Bush in Washington on November 13 in a discussion expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program and the Palestinian Authority.
On Thursday, U.S. envoys Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams met Olmert. Abrams and Welch were said to have discussed the agenda for the talks with Bush as well as Israeli concessions to the PA.
Olmert also met U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. Officials said the two men discussed the smuggling of weapons to the Gaza Strip from Egypt as well as Iran’s nuclear program.