Olmert to U.S. Jewish Leaders: No Reason to Fear Netanyahu

Olmert made the remarks to calm fears that Netanyahu's premiership will harm U.S.-Israeli relations.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried this week to allay the concerns of the American Jewish community regarding Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.

Whereas Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni explained her rejection of Netanyahu's offers to join his cabinet by citing his alleged unwillingness to genuinely engage in peace talks, Olmert told Jewish leaders and Jewish Agency bosses that they and Washington had no reason to fear Netanyahu.

In a meeting with prominent Jewish American leaders and the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Olmert said: "Netanyahu is an Israeli patriot and not an extreme individual. He knows what it right, and I believe he will promote the peace process."

Olmert's statements came after some guests said they feared Netanyahu's rise to power would result in a deterioration in U.S.-Israeli relations. Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim from Kadima told Haaretz he believed Olmert was trying to address the concerns raised by the people who met with him.

Sources in the political establishment speak of a recent rapprochement between Netanyahu and Olmert, who had previously been bitter rivals. The Prime Minister's Office, when queried about the meeting with the guests from the U.S., said that Olmert did not mention Netanyahu in the talks.