I was skeptical when I first saw Gateway Pundit‘s post, but if he’s wrong then why is the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office issuing formal clarifications of what Olmert said to her a few days ago? Quote:

The Prime Minister emphasized that although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the axis of evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.

In order to conduct serious and genuine peace negotiations, Syria must cease its support of terror, cease its sponsoring of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, refrain from providing weapons to Hizbוullah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon, cease its support of terror in Iraq, and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the extremist regime in Iran…

What was communicated to the U.S. House Speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel, as was communicated to other foreign leaders.

It’s that middle paragraph that’s key. No peace talks until the terror stops. Absolute precondition. Now here’s how Pelosi described what she said to Assad today, via Gateway Pundit:

“[Our] meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks,” Pelosi told reporters in Damascus after talks with Assad.

Pelosi said Assad in turn assured her of his willingness to engage in peace talks with Israel.

“We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process,” Pelosi said. “He’s ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel.”

An Israeli government official said that was not the message Olmert had asked Pelosi earlier this week to convey to Assad, who seeks the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“The prime minister said Israel is interested in peace with Syria, but Syria would first have to abandon the path of terror and providing support for terrorist groups,” the official said, in reference to Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The left aren’t exactly hard bargainers when it comes to terrorism, but I can’t believe she’d purposely omit a prerequisite as crucial as that in conveying the offer to Assad. Particularly given that it’s an offer from Israel, to whom the Democrats are anxious to prove they’re every bit as strong an ally as Republicans. Which means either she bungled the offer unintentionally, out of sheer, royal stupidity, or she didn’t bungle it at all and there’s simply been a miscommunication somewhere. I’ve got to believe it’s the latter. For all her faults, Pelosi isn’t stupid.

The AP adds a bit that mitigates it somewhat:

“We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He’s ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel,” Pelosi said.

She said the delegation conveyed to Assad “the importance of Syria’s role with Hamas in promoting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

That’s a fine start, but it’s not nearly as comprehensive as the preconditions listed in the PMO’s clarification. Nor does it even clearly state that it was presented to Assad as a precondition rather than as something he might do as a conciliatory gesture to help the process along.

I don’t know what to think right now, but the JPost has perked up over this. Their article also contains this tidbit, which I hadn’t heard before:

The officials said Olmert had told Pelosi that he thought her trip to Damascus was a mistake, and that when she asked – nevertheless – whether he had a message for Assad, Olmert said Syria should first stop supporting terrorism and “act like a normal country,” and only then would Israel be willing to hold discussions.

The first part of that message, the officials said, was lost in what was reported from Damascus on Wednesday.

Exit question: Did Nancy botch the joke?