On Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to persuade U.S. President George Bush that American intelligence agencies are wrong and Iran is still in a race to obtain nuclear weapons.
Israeli officials knew that beyond all the festive reception and smiling press conferences, Mr. Olmert has to persuade Mr. Bush in one closed meeting not to take the military option for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program off the table. Mr. Olmert has said that the world must not accept Iranian efforts [to obtain nuclear weapons] and that it should be demanded of the international community that it step up the sanctions against the Iranians.
In the prime minister’s study on the first floor of the official residence in Jerusalem, Mr. Olmert presented the U.S. president with classified and updated information. A summary meeting between Mr. Olmert and top intelligence officials was held on Tuesday night, and in it the prime minister received the most updated information, after Israel recentlyincreased its efforts to gather sensitive information on what is happening in Iran. He spoke to Mr. Bush about the Iranian danger in terms of “every day that passes, the danger only increases.”
Senior sources close to Mr. Olmert said last night that ostensibly, the purpose of the meeting was achieved: President Bush was strengthened in his conviction that Iran indeed poses a threat to world peace. It appears Mr. Bush will also be willing to consider a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities in the future, even if now he is only speaking about a diplomatic solution.
A meeting held later at the Prime Minister’s
residence, was joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In the meeting, they mainly dealt with the Palestinian issue. Mr. Barak presented a dark
picture of what is now happening in the Gaza Strip: The huge quantities of weapons and explosives that are being smuggled in from Egypt, and Hamas’ preparations for expanding its attacks against the Israeli side.
Mr. Olmert made it clear Israel is approaching the point of no return, at which it will launch a massive military operation against Palestinian terrorist centers. Hundreds of Palestinians and perhaps more could be hurt by this activity, warned Mr. Olmert, but it is “our right and our obligation to defend the citizens of Israel and to stop the rocket fire at the Negev communities”. On this issue too, Mr. Olmert’s aides are convinced that it could be understood that the Bush Administration will show understanding and enable Israel to defend its citizens. Ms. Livni, who was treated by Bush with special warmth, presented to him the principles that will guide her in conducting negotiations over the core issues. Defense Minister Barak presented Israel’s red lines in negotiating with the Palestinians, as part of an attempt to reach an understanding with the Bush Administration on the principles that Israel will insist on in any negotiations: A demilitarized Palestinian state, the right to fly in the skies of the state that will be established, and a permanent Israeli military presence at the state’s points of entry and exit.
DARK CAPITAL FOR THE SUNRISE
Rumor has it that President Bush wakes up early in the morning and likes to watch the sunrise. The Jerusalem municipality decided to help him see it better.
While President Bush is in Jerusalem, starting at 4:30 AM, the municipality kept the city dark until sunrise. The US president was expected to wake up at about 5:15 AM, and then be able to go to the window of his luxurious suite in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and look at the rising sun. For this purpose, municipal workers were told to go to work in the early morning and darken the eastern part of the city. “The municipality is in a frenzy,” said one worker.
©The Bulletin 2008