Bush visit timed to help Olmert, MKs claim

MK Ophir Paz-Pines: Visit timed to deflect attention from the release of the final Winograd Report.

Pines 88 (photo credit: )
Pines 88
(photo credit: )
US President George W. Bush timed his upcoming visit to Israel to deflect attention from the release of the final Winograd Report, which is expected to issue damning criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's handling of the Second Lebanon War, Knesset members charged Wednesday. "It is preferable that Olmert also bring [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown, [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy and [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel... maybe that would be enough to help him," Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines said. While the report's final recommendations are still unknown, sources close to the Winograd Committee have speculated that it could topple Olmert's government. "Olmert needs a distraction. What better way to distract the media and push the Winograd report off the front pages than a visit by a US president?" said a Meretz MK, who added that public opinion would ultimately force Olmert out of office. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz said while Bush has been the "best president, in regards to Israel," he would not be surprised if Olmert had asked Bush to visit during the first week of January to serve his personal needs. Israeli prime ministers and American presidents have a long history of aiding one another during times of political turmoil. In 1992, former president George H.W. Bush endorsed Yitzhak Rabin's bid for prime minister, while in 1996, Bill Clinton came to Israel to support Shimon Peres during his campaign for prime minister against Binyamin Netanyahu.