Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Tuesday he and President Bush have smoothed relations between their two countries strained by the U.S. partnership with Arab leaders against Iraq.
The president issued a "warm welcome" to Shamir at the outset of their Oval Office talks Tuesday morning, but he rebuffed questions from reporters about the Middle East situation."We have been delighted to express our full support for the leadership of the president, for the policy of the United States in this recent crisis of the gulf," Shamir told reporters after spending nearly two hours with Bush at the White House.
"And the president also expresses his support for our behavior, for our policy" in the crisis, Shamir added.
Israeli officials said before the meeting that Shamir would tell Bush that Israel does not intend to launch any pre-emptive strikes against Iraq.
Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly said that Shamir didn't talk about "potential Israeli actions" but that Bush thanked him for keeping a low profile in the crisis.
"There was a strong expression of identity of views on seeing Iraqi aggression rebuffed," Kelly told reporters.
But he also said "there was no attempt to duck the tough issues" of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and Israel's use of force against Palestinian protests in those areas. Kelly did not elaborate.
The administration has been concerned in recent days by suggestions from senior Israeli officials that if the United States doesn't dismantle Iraq's military machine, Israel might.
"We have reached general understanding, more or less, on all the moves in the gulf and on Israel's position," Shamir told reporters.
The meeting "will enhance the special relationship between the United States and Israel," Shamir said.
Israel has been torn between its promise to the United States to lie low in the Persian Gulf crisis and fears that the administration is moving toward a diplomatic solution that will leave Iraq's stores of chemical and biological weapons intact.