Josh Marshall reports something I surmised almost from the beginning of the flap over whether or not Nancy Pelosi carried a message from Israel to Syria saying the former wanted peace talks with the latter. As soon as Pelosi made the diplomatic demarche public, Olmert denied it had ever existed. But no less an Israel hawk than Tom Lantos not only confirms that Pelosi delivered exactly the message conveyed to her by Olmert in Jerusalem, he also lays blame for the Olmert denial squarely at the feet of the White House. Marshall quotes Rom Kampeas at JTA:
Lantos suggested there was pressure from the White House.
“It’s obvious the White House is desperate to find some phony criticism of the speaker’s trip, even though it was a bipartisan trip,” said Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who is considered the Democrat closest to the pro-Israel lobby. “I have nothing but contempt and disdain for the attempt to undermine this trip.”
The White House had no comment on the allegations by Lantos that it pressured Olmert to offer a clarification.
Such backdoor statecraft between the White House and Olmert would not be unprecedented.
Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked Olmert into a 48-hour cease-fire during the war with Hezbollah to allow humanitarian relief, but within hours Israeli planes were bombing again, to Rice’s surprise and anger. Olmert had received a call, apparently from Cheney’s office, telling him to ignore Rice.
Olmert’s message seemed calibrated to cast Pelosi as a naive novice.
I was never aware of the story of Cheney’s sabotage of Rice’s ceasefire proposal. That’s sure an eye-opener.
And I have nothing but disdain for all the dopey CNN reporters and Washington Post editorial writers who accept at face value that it was Pelosi who had the rug pulled out from under her in Damascus; that she somehow overplayed her hand in telling the world that Israel wanted peace with Syria. If she did fall down (and I don’t even accept this premise) it’s because Ehud Olmert set the rug on the floor and Dick Cheney yanked it at the proper moment.