Likud slams PM's 'sycophancy' to Bush

Party sources say Olmert excessively praising US president instead of defending Israel's interests.

netanyahu 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
netanyahu 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acted like a "sycophant" by excessively praising US President George W. Bush at their joint press conferences, rather than defending Israel's interests, senior Likud sources said Thursday. The sources said opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, in contrast, devoted his 45-minute meeting with Bush and other top American officials to pressing for Israel's security concerns and its history to be taken into account when decisions are being made about the country's fate. "Jerusalem has belonged to the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the Jewish people will ensure that it will remain undivided under Jewish sovereignty forever," Netanyahu told Bush at the capital's King David Hotel on Thursday morning. To emphasize the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, Netanyahu gave Bush a coin issued during the Great Revolt, just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The inscription on the coin included the words "Holy Jerusalem." Netanyahu outlined a plan for peace with the Palestinians that involved building a strong Palestinian economy that would encourage peace from the bottom up instead of its imposition by politicians from the top. But most of the meeting was devoted to the Iranian issue. Netanyahu pressed Bush to act against the Islamic Republic before he left office in January 2009. "Iran is a threat to world peace," Netanyahu said, using the same words that Bush used the night before. The meeting was also attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton. Netanyahu's associates expressed satisfaction that the meeting, which was supposed to last 20 minutes, went on for 45. Bush initially did not intend to meet with Netanyahu during his visit, but US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones called the latter personally early Wednesday and invited him to meet with the US president. Netanyahu's associates said they did not apply pressure to receive a meeting but that a Jerusalem Post story Monday about Netanyahu blaming Olmert for blocking a meeting had an impact. Netanyahu told Army Radio that the test of Israeli leaders would always be "the ability to stand in front of our enemies and also our friends and say, 'These things are important for our security,'" adding that he did not believe Olmert shared this belief. "We need to stand firm for our interests in the face of the current realities and for the values sacred to the people of Israel," Netanyahu said. "This is not something that lessens others' appreciation for us, but actually increases it. From my experience in international affairs, I have learned that world leaders respect Israeli leaders who know how to stand up for Israel's interests."