Bush: U.S. would aid Israel if attacked
Talks between U.S., Israel leaders focus on Iran, Hamas
(Gold9472: Call me crazy, but if they orchestrate an attack against Israel, and blame it on Iran, then they get their war. Isn't that what they want, but are having a hard time getting?)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In remarks aimed at Iran's suspected nuclear ambitions, President Bush said Tuesday that if Israel were attacked by Iran, the United States would come to its aid.
He made the comment at the White House during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after a meeting between the two leaders. It was Olmert's first official visit to the United States as prime minister.
Israeli officials have joined the United States in voicing outrage over Iran's moves to enrich uranium, in light of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent calls for the destruction of Israel. (Watch Bush and Olmert warn Iran -- 1:34)
Iran's leaders have insisted that they are pursuing a nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes, a claim challenged by the United States and much of the international community.
"The prime minister and I shared our concerns about the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons ambitions," Bush said. "The United States and the international community have made our common position clear: We're determined that the Iranian regime must not gain nuclear weapons.
"I told the prime minister what I've stated publicly before: Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States. And in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid," Bush said.
Bush also praised Olmert's plan to withdraw from some settlements in the West Bank, saying the prime minister's "bold ideas" could be "an important step toward the peace we both support."
Olmert, a former Jerusalem mayor, has vowed to define Israel's permanent borders within four years -- with or without talks with the Palestinians -- by evacuating many of the smaller Jewish settlements in the West Bank and bolstering the larger ones.
The Hamas-led Palestinian government was also high on the meeting's agenda.
Until Hamas won parliamentary elections in January, Fatah was the dominant force in Palestinian politics. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin told CNN that Bush is "a good friend in the White House, the best we ever had."
When he returns from Washington, Gissin said, Olmert will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- the first official visit between the two leaders.
Olmert dismissed Abbas -- a member of the ousted Fatah party -- as "powerless" and unable to "seriously negotiate with Israel" in a recent interview with CNN's "Late Edition."
But on Tuesday Bush had words of praise for Abbas.
"Abbas favors and speaks out for peace and negotiations, yet the Hamas-led Palestinian government does not," he said.
Talks between Israel and Hamas government officials are unlikely, since Hamas refuses to recognize the Jewish state.
In an attempt to further isolate Hamas, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution 361-37 that would bar all dealings with Hamas -- including restrictions on private aid money to Palestinians. (Full story)
The House resolution also would deny U.S. visas to any members of the Palestinian Authority.
The White House already has cut off funds for the Hamas-led government until it recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces acts of terrorism.
"No country can be expected to make peace with those who deny its right to exist and who use terror to attack its population," Bush said Tuesday.
Before his White House visit, the Israeli prime minister met Tuesday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
Olmert took part in "a preparatory session" with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday night, according to acting State Department spokesman Tom Casey.
Olmert took over as acting prime minister when his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, suffered a massive stroke in early January, and their Kadima party went on to win parliamentary elections in March.
Sharon is still on life support. The Israeli Cabinet declared Sharon permanently incapacitated on April 12.