Israel's Olmert says Rice was embarrassed by an order to abstain from UN vote
By JASON KEYSER
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel's prime minister said Monday that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was embarrassed after being ordered to abstain from voting for a U.N. cease-fire resolution that she helped arrange.
Israel had described the resolution calling for a halt to the Gaza fighting as unworkable because it did not guarantee Israel's security, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was key in persuading the United States, a close ally, to abstain.
The resolution, passed Thursday in a 14-0 vote, "calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."
"I said: 'Get me President Bush on the phone,'" Olmert said Monday in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. "They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care: 'I need to talk to him now.' He got off the podium and spoke to me."
Olmert said he told Bush that the United States should not vote in favor, and the U.S. president then called Rice and told her not to do so.
"She was left pretty embarrassed," Olmert said, referring to Rice.
A senior U.S. official disputed the account.
"The government of Israel does not make policy for the United States," the official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the diplomacy.
A day after the vote, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he was surprised by the U.S. abstention.
"We were told that the Americans were going to vote in favor," he said.
But when Rice came in to the Security Council chamber, she informed the Saudi foreign minister with an apology that she would abstain and would clarify later that the U.S. supported the resolution nonetheless, according to Malki.
"What happened in the last 10 or 15 minutes, what kind of pressure she received, from whom, this is really something that maybe we will know about later," he said on Friday. The vote was delayed for about 45 minutes, apparently waiting
for Rice to return to the council chamber.
Rice said after the vote that the United States "fully supports" the resolution but abstained because it "thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation," referring to an Egyptian-French initiative aimed at achieving a cease-fire.
So even though the Americans were behind this UN resolution initiative, their entire efforts were rendered pointless by one order from Olmert to Bush. Sometimes it's nice to have such clarity on how this "special relationship" between Israel and the US works.
Link to another version of this story here and here.