Israeli leader's U.S. visit seen falling short of his expectations

American and Israeli officials played down any expectation that Ehud Olmert's first meeting with President George W. Bush as Israel's prime minister would produce dramatic results.

"I don't expect anything formal, but the two of them obviously are going to be talking about ways to keep moving forward" with the peace process, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday.

Similarly, Israeli ambassador Daniel Ayalon said the emergence of Hamas and intransigeance on the Palestinian side to stopping terror had produced a complex situation.

"We must all examine different options to break the stalemate," he said.

Olmert was due to see Bush at the White House Tuesday afternoon. To make preparations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley arranged to call on Olmert Monday night.

The Israeli leader would like endorsement of his ambitious plan to draw his nation's final borders with the Palestinians within two years by pulling tens of thousands of Israeli settlers out of large chunks of the West Bank.

But Bush has been cool to the idea. He is occupied with Iraq and maintaining international pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

Bush faces divisions at home as well. The House planned to begin debate on Monday on sweeping sanctions, opposed by Bush but supported by many lawmakers, against the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, including a sharp reduction in humanitarian aid.

Bush may be loath to take on European and Arab allies who oppose Olmert's plan to unilaterally set borders if the Palestinians' Hamas rulers don't change moderate their policy toward Israel, whose right to exist they question. Unilateral Israeli action is also anathema to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reports AP.

O.Ch.