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(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Foreign minister Tzipi Livni met Thursday with US President George Bush for half an hour. This was the first meeting between the two officials.
Livni came to the White House for a planned meeting with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, during which Bush walked in and joined the conversation. Though presented as spontaneous, the presidential drop-in was planned in advance and coordinated between Israeli and US officials. The informal meeting with the President is seen as a gesture to the visiting minister and as an act of support. In the past, Bush dropped in to a meeting the former foreign minister Silvan Shalom was attending at the White House.
Livni ended her US tour Thursday with meetings in New York with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and with ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Livni said she sees great importance in meeting with the UN ambassadors, in light of the major role the international body is playing in recent years in world politics and in Middle East issues.
During her visit, Israeli ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon entertained Livni at a dinner party in his residence Wednesday evening. Many US senior officials attended the event, among them the Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, senior members of Congress and State Department officials.
Though several Israeli officials both from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and from the Washington embassy attended as well, the director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Ron Prosor, was not invited. Prosor has taken an active role in the attempts to call back Ayalon due to the ongoing investigation concerning alleged misconduct on his and his wife behalf concerning the domestic staff at the ambassador's residence and travel expenses.
Israeli officials said Thursday that there was no need to read into the fact that Prosor was not invited to the event and said it was "a small and intimate event which was arranged in order to get Minister Livni acquainted with senior Washington figures." The guest list suggests that there were several lower level Israeli representatives at the event, including Prosor's deputy director in charge of North America.
In her address at the event, Livni told the guests that she found that there is a consensus in Washington "that Ayalon is an excellent ambassador."
Ayalon has been in dispute with Shalom, who has made it clear he would like to see him out of a job. Both sides filed complaints against each other and an internal investigation concerning Ayalon's conduct is ongoing.
It is not clear what the new foreign minister will decide regarding Ayalon's future and whether the fact that she endorsed Ayalon publicly and that Prosor did not attend the event, can be interpreted as a signal that Livni will take Ayalon's side in this dispute.