'Take care of Olmert,' Bush urges

Ministers implored to keep PM in power; Yishai to Bush: Impossible to make peace with half a nation.

Bush olmert laugh 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Bush olmert laugh 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
US President George W. Bush blatantly intervened in Israeli politics at Thursday's working dinner at the Prime Minister's Residence, calling on the politicians there to support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Bush spoke at length with Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. "Take care of Olmert, so he will stay in power," Bush said. "He's a strong leader. Israeli politics is like karate, that you never know when the next chop will come." Yishai told Bush it would be a mistake to sign an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, because it was impossible to make peace with half a nation. He said Israel could not compromise on refugees or Jerusalem. Lieberman was less critical of the Annapolis process in his comments. The Israel Beiteinu chairman spoke about the need for exchanges of territory and populations. Olmert made sure that Strategic Affairs Minister Lieberman spoke to US security officials about Iran at the meal. The prime minister received good news Thursday when polls were published that found a majority of Labor supporters wanted party chairman Ehud Barak to break his promise to remove his party from the government upon the publication of the Winograd Report on January 30. A Dialog poll published in Haaretz reported that 61 percent of Labor voters wanted the party to remain in the coalition. A Dahaf poll in Yediot Aharonot that asked the same question put the figure at 56%. As a precaution in case Labor did leave, Olmert met with United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz on Tuesday and promised him NIS 173 million for haredi educational and cultural institutions and to support Ravitz's proposal to give tax benefits to organ donors. The meal was attended by eight ministers, Mossad head Meir Dagan, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top American officials.