'AJC understands Israeli absence from session'

Concern was voiced in the Israeli media Thursday night that no Israeli political figure would be in attendance at the American Jewish Committee conference in Washington in which US President George Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were scheduled to speak. When asked for the American Jewish Committee's reaction to this fact, Col. (res.) Eran Lerman, head of the American Jewish Committee's Israel/Middle East office told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday night that everyone in attendance "understood completely" the critical importance of the new Israeli government's swearing in Jerusalem late that night. "Shimon Peres was on our schedule, but he couldn't possible miss the ceremony in which he, as speaker of the Knesset, was handing over the reigns to the next speaker," he added. He said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent a recorded video message to play at the conference. Many other world leaders did the same, including Jordan's King Abdullah II and Australian Prime Minister John Howard.