Bush blatantly interferes in local politics
U.S. President George W. Bush, breaking with all conventions of a visiting politician, blatantly urging government ministers to back Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whom he described as a strong leader, and keep him in power. Out of respect for the guest, the ministers suppressed their giggles and guffaws.And Ehud Olmert, for his part, let down Jonathan Pollard and his supporters:
Industry, Labor, and Trade Minister Eli Yishai of the Sephardi religious Shas party told Bush that he is "not willing to compromise on Jerusalem" and recited several psalms that emphasize the importance of the holy city. "We cannot make peace with half of the Palestinian nation, which is all that is ruled by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas," Yishai added.
"We saw what happened when we left Gaza," Yishai said. "We cannot accept a similar situation tomorrow in the West Bank. Hamas entered every place we left. We cannot compromise on Israel's security. The problem with Hamas is that it wants to destroy Israel."
Nearby, some 200 right-wing activists gathered in central Jerusalem to protest the ongoing visit of US President George W. Bush. The rally was organized by the 'SOS Israel' under the banner of praying for a unified Jerusalem. Protestors read psalms and carried signs, several of which warned that Bush and Olmert were "bringing another Holocaust."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stunned participants at Thursday's working meal of Israeli ministers with US President George W. Bush when he refused to allow them to raise the issue of imprisoned Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, claiming that it was not the appropriate time to discuss the case. The meal was attended by eight ministers, the heads of the Mossad and Shin-Bet (Israel Security Agency), US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top American officials.It's possible that Olmert doesn't want to deal with it, and it wouldn't surprise me if he hadn't brought up the issue at all.
One of the ministers in attendance, Pensioners Party Chairman Rafi Eitan, was actually Pollard's handler, while President Shimon Peres was the minister to whom Eitan reported. So the men who employed and directed Pollard were enjoying a festive dinner with the Bush, while Pollard is left to rot in prison now into his 23rd year. No wonder Olmert tried to prevent anybody from asking questions.
Olmert claimed that he asked Bush to pardon Pollard when he met with the president on Wednesday, but said that he was turned down. No other details about that alleged exchange, and there was no confirmation of Olmert's claim.
Pollard's wife Esther said she was disappointed that Olmert refrained from discussing her husband, because in Judaism, redeeming captives defers any other issue. She said she was not impressed by Olmert's allegation that he raised the issue the day before.