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New York Jewish Week Political Insider: "Will Olmert Woes Help Washington Take a Pass on Mideast Peacemaking?"

The administration has been saying all the right things, but seems to have been avoiding backing up the rhetoric with action," said Ori Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.

by James Besser

5/9/08


Is the Bush administration worried that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's new troubles will stall their effort to make significant progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before January?

Don't bet on it. While most analysts in Washington believe the new corruption investigation means Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are effectively on hold for the foreseeable future, that may not be at odds with administration goals.

"The administration has been saying all the right things, but seems to have been avoiding backing up the rhetoric with action," said Ori Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.  "A long period of uncertainty in the top levels of Israel's leadership could give the administration the excuse for inaction that it may be seeking - if it needs an excuse at all."

Some groups that oppose aggressive new peace efforts in the region say Olmert might accelerate negotiations - and make risky concessions to the Palestinians - as a way of deflecting attention from his woes and distracting the Israeli public.

But in Washington, it's hard to find analysts who believe the administration wants that to happen. Despite the rhetoric, they say, U.S. policy now is simply to mark time and hand the conflict over to the next president.

"(Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice obviously wants to move forward quickly, but she's getting no backing at all from the White House," said a longtime pro-Israel leader here.  "And everybody in the region knows it."

The administration is also stymied by Hamas' and its control over Gaza, this activist said.