It is a rare honour bestowed only on Washington’s closest international allies – as Ehud Olmert arrived to make a speech before a joint session of the US Congress, the warm welcome he received left Israel’s credentials as a prized partner in no doubt. The Israeli prime minister laid out his vision for the Middle East.
“The Palestinians will forever be our neighbours. They are an inseparable part of this land, as are we. Israel has no desire to rule over them, nor to oppress them,” he said to ringing applause.
“I extend my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority.”
But there will be no talks with the Hamas-led Palestinian government, at least as long as it refuses to reject terrorism and recognise Israel.
Earlier, following talks between the pair, US President George W Bush cautiously embraced Olmert’s plans to redraw the Jewish settlement map in the West Bank, with or without Palestinian agreement.