Ehud Olmert said his visit to the United States this week is of strategic importance to Israel.
The Israeli prime minister departs Monday to attend the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, which provides an opportunity to confer with President Bush and the three candidates to succeed him.
Given the criminal investigation into Olmert’s financial ties with an American financier, some Israeli pundits have accused the prime minister of seeking to distract the public and called on him to scrap the U.S. trip.
But in apparent allusions to Israeli-U.S. efforts to coordinate means of tackling Iran’s nuclear program, peacemaking with Syria and the rise of Palestinian Hamas, Olmert said Sunday the visit is of key importance.
“While I do not want to go into details, I will say that it seems to me, and to those ministers who, with me, deal with the most strategic and fateful issues affecting the State of Israel, that this visit is very important,
especially regarding the State of Israel’s existential issues,” he told his Cabinet in broadcast remarks.