After the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was released, Israel publicly challenged the U.S. intelligence consensus that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program. “In our opinion,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, Iran “has apparently continued that program.”
Just days after the NIE was released, Bush quickly announced he would make the first visit to Israel of his presidency to mend differences over Iran.
In private meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week, Newsweek reports that President Bush disowned the U.S. intelligence community’s judgments:
But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. “He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views” about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.
Bush had reportedly briefed Olmert about the Iran NIE days before it was publicly released in late November. The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh said, “The Israelis were very upset about the report. They think we’re naive, they don’t think we get it right. And so they have a different point of view.”
But after his private meetings with Bush this week, Olmert — asked whether he felt reassured — replied, “I am very happy.”
UPDATE: Speaking in the United Arab Emirates, Bush said the United States and Arab allies must join together to confront the danger of Iran “before it’s too late.”