|Olmert says he made Rice change vote
International Herald Tribune | January 13, 2009
WASHINGTON: In an unusually public rebuke, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said Monday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been forced to abstain from a United Nations resolution on Gaza that she helped draft, after Olmert placed a phone call to President George W. Bush.
"I said, 'Get me President Bush on the phone,' " Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, according to The Associated Press. "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,' " Olmert continued. "He got off the podium and spoke to me."
Israel opposed the resolution, which called for a halt to the fighting in Gaza, because the government said it did not provide for Israel's security. It passed 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining.
Olmert claimed that once he made his case to Bush, the president called Rice and told her to abstain. "She was left pretty embarrassed," Olmert said, according to The AP.
The State Department disputed Olmert's account. "Her recommendation was to abstain; that was her recommendation all along," said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the matter.
After the vote, Rice said the United States "fully supports" the resolution, which called for "an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza," but opted to abstain to see the outcome of an Egyptian-French peace initiative.
Rice did not respond to Olmert's remarks, which were unusual even in the context of the secretary's occasionally bumpy relationship with the prime minister, according to the official.
Privately, Olmert has said Rice sometimes had to be reined in for getting ahead of the president on policy. "They have a good relationship, but there have been some ups and downs," the State Department official said.