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NSC denies Rice-Abrams rift

The National Security Council denied that deputy chief Elliott Abrams suggested to Jewish leaders that the White House differed from Condoleezza Rice on the pace of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”Advancing toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians and toward the president’s vision of two states living side by side in peace and security is not only Secretary Rice’s goal, it is a key goal of the president’s,” said an NSC statement in response to a story in the Forward describing an apparent rift between Abrams and the U.S. secretary of state.The Forward article described a briefing last week that Abrams delivered to Jewish leaders under the auspices of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives. At that briefing and in other forums, Abrams reportedly said Rice’s recent push to accelerate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was “just process” and that President Bush would apply an “emergency brake” against any pressure on Israel.”It is inaccurate to suggest that the White House and State Department are at odds on this issue, for the entire administration – including Mr. Abrams – is committed to pursuing it and the rest of the President’s agenda,” said the NSC statement, which appears in a Forward story that was updated online and was confirmed by JTA.”Moreover, Mr. Abrams’ reference to an ’emergency brake’ was in reply to a question about whether European and Arab pressure could put Israel in a corner, and was intended to make clear that this would not happen because ultimately the United States provides an emergency brake. It had nothing to do with efforts by the United States to push the process forward, under Secretary Rice’s direction.”