Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Olmert’s Washington detour

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What does an Israeli prime minister with some time on his hands — and a term about to end — do before he visits the White House for a farewell talk with President George W. Bush?

The same thing that a journalist who flew on his plane to Washington does: tour the capital’s Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism.
    

Situated off Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Capitol, the museum’s terrace offers a stunning view of Washington’s historic sites — and that’s where, along with a colleague from the French news agency, I ran into Ehud Olmert and his security guards.
    

“What are you doing here,” the head of Olmert’s Israeli security detail asked us, probably wondering who could have leaked the prime minister’s unannounced visit.
    

Welcome to Israel

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olmert.jpg Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was all smiles a day after police recommended that he face criminal charges in a corruption scandal.

 Declining to answer reporters’s questions, an ebullient Olmert grinned broadly and waxed patriotic as he greeted a jumbo jet-load of new immigrants from the United States.

Can Gaza ceasefire hold?

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The Gaza Strip and the Israeli towns and farms surrounding the Palestinian enclave spent a quiet morning on Thursday after a ceasefire deal came into force after dawn between the Jewish state and the  Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza’s 1.5 million people. The absence of mortars and improvised rockets falling on the Israeli side of the border and of Israeli air strikes and ground incursions on the other were welcomed by ordinary people. For Palestinians in Gaza, the biggest hope is an increase in supplies which Israel has kept under tight blockade since Hamas seized control a year ago.
Palestinian police play footballBoth sides, as well as Egypt which mediated the deal over several months and the international powers, have plenty of reasons to see the truce work . The UN even told Reuters it could help pave the way for UN peacekeepers in Gaza.  But equally there are plenty on all sides who are already saying it is as doomed as previous “calms” between Israel and Hamas, which has been shunned by Western powers for its refusal to give up violent tactics such as suicide bombings and Gaza rocket salvos. Not least among the apparent pessimists has been Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has warned the peace may be short-lived. Olmert has plenty of critics who would happily use that adjective of his own career – the prime minister has promised to resign if he is indicted in a corruption investigation that has already seen an American businessman testify to handing Olmert large sums of cash stuffed in envelopes. The premier has survived a series of such scandals in his two and a half years in power and he again denies all wrongdoing. However, his enemies, including within his own coalition government, are circling and could vote next week to dissolve parliament and start the process of triggering an early election .Olmert gestures in Knesset

So how is Olmert fighting back? By making himself seem indispensable to Israelis as a peacemaker on all fronts, some say. As well as U.S.-sponsored talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, begun last November,  he has lately revealed Turkish-mediated talks with Syria, a desire to open negotiations with Lebanon and progress in talks with Hezbollah on exchanging prisoners. Not to mention today’s truce with Hamas. So can Olmert stave off the public prosecutor and keep the peace?

Obama on Jerusalem. What did he mean?

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Barack Obama said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

Compare that remark with this comment by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert published on January 1 in an interview with The Jerusalem Post: “The world that is friendly to Israel… that really supports Israel, when it speaks of the future, it speaks of Israel in terms of the 1967 borders. It speaks of the division of Jerusalem.”
Obama’s comment infuriated Palestinians.
The United States and other international powers do not recognise Israel’s annexation of Arab East Jerusalem following the 1967 war. The future of Jerusalem is one of the most divisive issues facing Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators as they try to reach a deal before George W Bush leaves office in 2009.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank called it a “pandering performance”

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