The Bush administration warned outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to stage an attack on Iran or stage an all-out assault on Hamas in Gaza, TIME reported Tuesday, quoting senior Defense Ministry officials.
The two leaders met and dined together Monday during the Prime Minister's farewell visit, but the warning previously was issued by senior American officials. They are worried that Israel will use the period before President-elect Barack Obama takes office to attack Iran's nuclear plant.
Exploiting Bush's lame-duck status would force him and President-elect Barack Obama to completely revamp US Middle East policy, including the war in Iraq as well as attempts to use sanctions to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon. Israel's problem is that if sanctions do not work, an attack on Iran may come only after a catastrophic nuclear offensive by Iran.
American government officials also told the Olmert government that if it were to carry out a long-threatened attack on Hamas and allied terrorists, it could erect a dead end to the America Roadmap program designed to lead to a new Arab country within Israel's current borders.
In order to calm Israel's growing impatience with rocket attacks on southern Israel, the Bush government asked Jordanian King Abdullah II to intervene, TIME reported. The result was a secret visit to Amman last week by Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who heard the king tell them he won promises by Hamas to halt the rocket strikes.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated earlier this month that Israel need not retaliate so long as the rocket attacks do not cause widespread damage or serous injuries. One rocket three weeks ago damaged a strategic site in Ashkelon, causing light damage.
Jordan sent messengers to Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to order Gaza terrorists to halt the attacks, and King Abdullah then reportedly informed Olmert and Barak of Hamas's promise.
"Olmert and Barak listened carefully but pointed out that Israel cannot stand idle while the rockets are falling," TIME quoted a Jordanian official. However, the monarchy later objected to Israeli media reports that Jordan's interest in calm was due to efforts to quell growing protests within its own country against Israel's closure of Gaza crossings.
More than 1,000 demonstrators of the Muslim Brotherhood's political branch angrily denounced Israel last Friday and said that it would send ships to Gaza to challenge Israeli sovereignty over Gaza's coastal waters.
King Abdullah's advisors maintained that Jordan is trying to keep down the violence in order to prevent a halt in negotiations between Israel and the PA.
Prime Minister Olmert and President Bush repeated routine statements to encourage progress in the talks. "We strongly believe that Israel will benefit by having a Palestinian state, a democracy on its border that works for peace," said President Bush.
The outgoing Prime Minister replied, "You have set forth in motion the Annapolis process, which I was very proud to take part in. It continues with your guidance and support and inspiration. And this is very important because, as you say, a two-state solution is the only possible way to resolve the conflict."