Inquiries Show Olmert Version of UN Gaza Vote Spat Closer to Truth Than Rice's

Officials say U.S. had planned to back truce resolution, despite Rice denial of Olmert assertion he swayed vote.

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Inquiries with people uninvolved in the spat between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reveal that his version of the lead-up to America's vote on last week's Security Council resolution is closer to the truth than hers.

Last Wednesday, the only proposal on the council's table was a completely one-sided Libyan resolution. Since it was clear to everyone that the United States would veto it, Israel had no reason to worry. But then, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former senior World Bank official, decided that this was the moment to make use of his Washington connections.

Fayyad persuaded the Americans to support a softened version of the resolution, which called for a prompt cease-fire, hoping that such a resolution would speed up the ongoing truce talks. He asked the British and French for help, and they agreed. Rice signaled her French and British counterparts, Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband, that she was on board.

European diplomats, UN officials and a senior PA official all said Thursday that as of last Friday night it was clear to almost everyone that the U.S., like the other 14 Security Council members, would vote for the softened resolution. They said Rice had promised as much to her European colleagues.

In Jerusalem, however, officials went to sleep thinking the Americans had only agreed to support a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire. At 1 A.M., final confirmation came from New York: The U.S. had promised that no cease-fire resolution would be brought to a vote any time soon. An hour and a half later, however, it became clear that not only was the Security Council due to vote on a cease-fire resolution at any minute, but Rice had ordered America's UN ambassador to support it. Olmert promptly telephoned U.S. President George Bush to complain about Rice's behavior and demand that he restrain her. What Bush said to Rice remains unknown. What is known, however, is that the U.S. suddenly changed its vote from "yes" to "abstain."

The whole story would have ended well had Olmert behaved like a responsible adult and restrained his own impulses. Even his close associates admit that he would have done better to skip the public boasting about how he persuaded Bush to overrule Rice. Quite aside from the fact that this embarrassed the U.S. administration, Olmert's associates understand all too well that this story merely provides fresh ammunition to those who claim the Jews are the ones who really control America.