- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

Israeli envoy resigns

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry has resigned after only two years in Washington, an apparent casualty of a political dispute between hawkish Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and dovish Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Mr. Ivry informed his embassy staff on Monday that he will leave his post after Israel's independence day, which falls on April 17 this year.

The ambassador, one of Israel's greatest military heroes, chose the date of his departure after the Israeli government failed to renew his two-year diplomatic contract, which expired Tuesday.

Israeli press critics complained that Mr. Ivry was an ineffective ambassador because he rarely appeared on U.S. television news shows to defend Israel's positions. However, he was considered influential behind the scenes by Bush and Clinton administration officials and leading Washington journalists.

Behind the media campaign against him, a bigger dispute is growing between Mr. Sharon and Mr. Peres about Israel's representation in Washington, the country's most important diplomatic post.

Mr. Sharon wanted to appoint Dore Gold, like himself a Likud party member, as the next ambassador. Mr. Gold is a former ambassador to the United Nations. However, Mr. Peres has vetoed that choice. Under Israel's national unity government, Mr. Sharon and Mr. Peres, of the Labor Party, must agree on an ambassador to the United States.

Levin upsets Bandar

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan is upset with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin for questioning Saudi Arabia's cooperation with the United States and accusing the country of funding schools linked to terrorists.

Prince Bandar criticized the Michigan Democrat for remarks at a press breakfast earlier this week where he suggested the United States pull its troops out of the desert kingdom. Mr. Levin also was concerned that as many as a dozen of the 19 terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks were Saudi citizens.

"I have great respect for Sen. Levin, but I am surprised by his statement," the ambassador said in remarks released by the Saudi Embassy.

Prince Bandar noted that President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice "have all attested to the high level of support and cooperation that exists between our countries."

"We fought together a decade ago to reverse aggression against Kuwait, and we stand together today in the fight against terrorism," Prince Bandar added.

The ambassador said Mr. Levin's criticism of the state-funded religious schools, called madrassas, reflects an ignorance of Islam and of Saudi Arabia.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia prohibits the teaching of hatred and violence," Prince Bandar said. "Charges that Saudis fund schools that do so are baseless and lack an understanding of our culture, society and laws."

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Levin told reporters that the United States might have to relocate its troops from Prince Sultan Air Base, used to enforce the no-fly zones in Iraq. He also complained about Saudi restrictions on American military personnel.

"They act as though somehow or other they are doing us a favor" by hosting U.S. troops to defend Saudi Arabia, he said.

He also questioned the Saudi government's responsibility for the madrassas, where many Islamic terrorists were trained.

"I think if the Saudi government wanted, it could prevent that from happening," Mr. Levin said.

Canada's top priority

Canada's new foreign minister yesterday said his top priority is maintaining close ties with the United States.

"Obviously the United States relationship is the single most important relationship Canada has," Bill Graham told reporters after the first meeting of Prime Minister Jean Chretien's new Cabinet.

Mr. Graham was named foreign minister in a major Cabinet reshuffle Tuesday. He replaced John Manley, who was named deputy prime minister with key responsibility for relations with the United States.

Mr. Manley, who handled Canada's response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, developed close ties with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

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