Anger at peace talks 'meddling'
Political scandal in US as Bush advisers tell Israelis
to be ready to walk out of Camp David negotiations
Israel and the Middle East: special
Julian Borger in Washington
The Middle East peace talks at Camp David became the subject
of a political
scandal in the US last night when reports emerged that one of George W Bush's
foreign policy advisers had warned the Israeli delegation to be prepared to walk
out of negotiations.
Richard Perle, a veteran cold war warrior and former assistant
secretary of state,
urged the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, not to agree to any settlement
which left the future status of Jerusalem unresolved, according to the New York
The website quoted a message received by Mr Barak yesterday
from two of his
emissaries, Yoram Ben-Ze'ev and Yossi Alpher. The two men said Mr Perle "asked
us to send a clear message" to Mr Barak that it would be a "catastrophe" if the
Jerusalem question was not dealt with, and urged him "to walk away" from the
Camp David negotiations if faced with that outcome.
Mr Bush's office had no comment on the report yesterday. Mr Ben-Ze'ev,
by mobile phone, said he was in Houston, Texas - Governor Bush's home state - but
would not explain the purpose of his visit and also refused to comment on the
Democrats responded angrily to what they portrayed as Republican
meddling in the
delicate negotiations currently under way at the presidential retreat at Camp David,
Maryland, aimed at reaching a final settlement in the 52-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"While I and all Americans are hoping and praying that the critical meeting at Camp
David will be the beginning of a new era of peace for the Middle East, some are
playing politics with this historic opportunity," said Sam Gejdenson, the ranking
Democratic member of the house committee on international relations.
Mr Gejdenson described Mr Perle's alleged intervention as
"an outrage" and
urged Mr Bush to disown his advisers' remarks. "In matters of life and death
there is no room for politics and ego," he said.