Ehud Olmert has pledged to the Bush administration that he would pursue peace talks with the Palestinians until he leaves office.
The Israeli prime minister met Monday morning with Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state and Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser.
“The prime minister emphasized that the Israeli government is committed to continue the Annapolis process and to negotiate with the Palestinians on that basis,” said an Israeli statement after the meeting, referring to the renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks launched last year in Annapolis, Md. “The prime minister reiterated that the Annapolis process will continue until our elections and hopes it will continue under the new administration.”
Olmert, tainted by scandal, is leaving office, but is acting as prime minister until after Feb. 10 general elections in Israel; it could be well into March before he hands power to a new prime minister. Tzipi Livni, who now heads Olmert’s Kadima Party has said she will continue the process; opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party has said he will revisit the precepts of the talks. Olmert and the Bush team also discussed handing off the negotiations to the incoming Barack Obama administration in the United States.
Olmert met Monday evening with President Bush, and praised him for his friendship to Israel.
“I’m delighted to have this opportunity to express again the deep gratitude we all have to you, personally, as a human being, as a friend, as a courageous leader who has helped Israel so much over the period since you were President of the United States of America,” Olmert said. He singled out the Iraq war as one of Bush’s great accomplishments.
Bush praised Olmert for “keeping his word” in his commitments to the peace process. “And in international politics, that’s important,” Bush said. “And I want to thank you for the friendship, and thank you for your vision. And I just want you to know that I believe that vision is alive and needs to be worked on.”