PM's advisors prepare Bush-Olmert summit
Dov Weisglass, Shalom Turgeman leave for Washington to discuss summit with Americans; meanwhile, Olmert sticks to refusal to meet with Abbas
US President George W. Bush is expected to announce his strategic support of Israel on the issues of Iran and the Hamas-led government during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to Washington next week.
The prime minister's political advisors left for Washington Saturday night to prepare the Bush-Olmert summit. Yoram Turbowicz, the Prime Minister's Office chief of staff, and the political advisors Dov Weisglass and Shalom Turgeman, are expected to meet with senior government officials in the American capital, headed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The three will also meet with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams and Assistant Secretary of State David Welch.
The three will try and reach an agreement with senior US officials on the contents of the meetings, and particularly on the diplomatic declarations which will come out from the visit. Israel does not expect any unusual political declarations in Washington.
A senior state official told Ynet Saturday evening that he estimates Washington will back Israel's policy regarding the Hamas government, will strengthen its declarations on its commitment to Israel's security under the Iranian threat and Tehran's nuclear arms, and will encourage a demand that Syria remove foreign forces from Lebanon.
Convergence not on the agenda (maybe)
Israel is also preparing for a possibility that the Americans will ask Olmert to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The Israeli stance in the meantime is an overall refusal for such a meeting.
However, two of Olmert's senior ministers have already openly expressed a different position. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni noted that she would not oppose such a meeting, while Defense Minister Amir Peretz stated that such a meeting is needed.
Israel stressed that the convergence issue is not on the agenda at the moment in the discussions with the Americans. However, it is possible that during Olmert's visit to the American capital, the US government will try to clarify the new Israeli prime minister's plans on the matter, before the US takes a firm stance.
The Americans are not rushing to back a firm Israel declaration such as the one Olmert issued during the election campaign: "Withdrawal to settlement blocs in order to determine the State of Israel's permanent borders."
Although Washington does not rule out settlement evacuations, according to the American perception the evacuation should involve a complete withdrawal of Israel from the territory, including its security forces.
Olmert, however, plans to leave the evacuated territory under the control of Israeli security forces. The solution, according to the US media's estimations, will be formulating a declaration on "an Israeli withdrawal to defensible borders while removing the evacuated territories from any characteristic of Israeli sovereignty."
The American government, however, does not plan to clarify these disagreements in Olmert's first visit as Israel's prime minister in their capital. On the contrary, the American government is trying to welcome the new prime minister with a red carpet.
Olmert will be staying at the Blair House, the White House's official guest house. On the second day of his visit, he will attend an exciting ceremony at the Pentagon. On the third day, Olmert is expected to meet with President Bush at the White House's residence wing, and on the fourth day he will speak before the two Houses of Congress – a gesture which former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for example, was not honored with.