Israel’s acting finance minister Ehud Olmert ends Washington talks without firm US undertaking on its $2.1bn aid request

DEBKAfile Intelligence

August 25, 2005, 10:24 AM (GMT+02:00)

“It would be strange,” he said after meeting secretary of state Condoleezza Rice Wednesday “If America withheld the grant,” which Israel has sought to help defray the costs of relocating Gaza communities and army infrastructure.

Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told correspondents reform in the Palestinian Authority is essential, but added Israel understands the US position regarding its security fence route and the West Bank.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources note that, while heaping praise on Ariel Sharon for his courage in going through with the dismantling of 25 Israeli communities, the Bush administration will hold back financial assistance until he makes good on the “understood” position. This means that the West Bank security fence must exclude Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, the Binyamin bloc near Ramallah, Ariel and the Beit Arieh region commanding Israel’s international airport. Israel will also be asked to continue pulling back from West Bank territory.