Excerpts from radio interviews with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom following his visit to Washington
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shalom made the following statements in live interviews to Israel Radio and IDF Radio, upon the conclusion of his visit to Washington, on July 24, 2003. They are presented below according to subject:
1. The Security Fence
"I believe that, regarding the issue of the security fence, a misunderstanding is truly developing between ourselves and the Americans. It stems, in my opinion, from a lack of familiarity with the finer details. In recent weeks, the Palestinians carried out a large-scale campaign regarding this issue, as well as the issue of the prisoner release. They created the feeling that the very existence of the fence undermines the peace process – while we believe the exact opposite to be true. Yesterday, I explained to my American colleagues, that these issues are meant to assist the peace process, since they are designed to prevent groups of extremist terrorists from harming, or actually torpedoing the peace process, by carrying out large-scale terrorist attacks against Israelis. The entire endeavor of erecting this fence is aimed at preventing this possibility, as is the case with Gaza, where a fence has been in existence for some time now.
"They [the Palestinians] are trying to paint the situation as a humanitarian violation, and damaging to the farmers. This is not accurate. We clarified the situation, and will provide additional information regarding the Palestinian farmers’ ability to continue to work their fields even after the fence is erected, and regarding the gates and passages along the length of the fence which will permit the entry of an even greater number of workers – after they have passed through the appropriate controls. We should however state that this is not the main issue of the peace process now. We are focusing on other things, like making sure that the Palestinian obligations are indeed being carried out." – (IDF Radio, 24/7/03)
2. The ‘Hudna’ and Dismantling Terrorism
"The main issue in our relationship with the United States is indeed how to promote the peace process. And promoting the peace process means the full implementation of the obligations of both sides. Consequently, when they arrive for talks in Washington this weekend, there will be a demand of the Palestinians that they carry out those commitments which they took upon themselves to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, collect weapons, and halt the incitement in their broadcast media and educational system.
"[Palestinian Prime Minister] Abu Mazen has still not internalized his imperative need to do this. In this matter, he is acting the same way that Arafat acted over the last ten years, when he promised time and again, in every agreement he signed, to dismantle to terrorist infrastructure. This issue was included in the various Oslo agreements, in the Hebron accords, and in the Wye agreements. The Palestinians took this issue upon themselves as a commitment for action – yet, in reality, nothing was ever done.
"Now as well, they are trying to get away with only a cease-fire, taking advantage of the present lull and the general satisfaction it engenders. Through this cease-fire, they wish, on the one hand, to circumvent their obligation to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and on the other hand, to apply pressure on Israel to carry out an additional series of positive measures toward them – primary among these is of course the demand to release prisoners." – (Israel Radio, 24/7)
"They are taking advantage of this temporary lull in order to make demands of Israel, while they themselves are doing absolutely nothing in order to carry our their own obligations. The Government of Israel will not proceed to the second phase before the first phase is fully implemented. And this is defined clearly as dismantling the terrorist infrastructure and preventing the extremist organizations from rebuilding their apparatus, training their cadre, and in essence, from being those who will determine when to put an end to the peace process, and when to permit it." – (IDF Radio, 24/7)
3. The Release of Prisoners and other Positive Measures
"I told them [my US colleagues] to demand from both sides that they fulfill their commitments. We have stood by our obligation to fulfill our commitments. We have already begun our withdrawal from cities. We have pulled out of Bethlehem and Gaza, and are prepared to withdraw from additional cities. We have also begun to remove unauthorized outposts. We have carried out our obligations in this realm, and furthermore, are carrying out a series of positive measures that don’t even appear on the Roadmap, such as the release of prisoners.
"The release of prisoners is an issue which we are willing to implement, with the purpose of strengthening Abu Mazen. But here, as well, the parameters should be clear. I stated very plainly, that we have clear criteria relating to the release of murderers, those that have blood on their hands, and those who were released in the past in various prisoner deals and then returned to their crimes.
"They, the Palestinians, claim that they have family members coming with the pictures of their jailed love ones and demonstrating outside of Abu Mazen’s office. I answered them that at least those families have the hope that, one day, their loved ones would return home. While our families, who come with pictures of their loved ones, have no hope whatsoever, since their loved ones are buried. This is a profound and overwhelming difference. Consequently, no one should demand of us more than we ourselves are willing and able to do." – (IDF Radio, 24/7)
"We announced, upon our own volition, that we would release prisoners. We should recall that a prisoner release doesn’t even appear in the Roadmap. Similarly, the latest positive measures which we have implemented, such as providing more work permits, more permits to remain in Israel overnight, expanding freedom of movement, expanding the fishing zone, all of these constitute a series of steps meant to ease conditions for the Palestinians. "The formula is clear: They stop the terrorism, stop the violence, and thus improve daily life for Israelis, and we carry out these positive measures such as withdrawing from those areas in which we are deployed, releasing prisoners and easing conditions – all of these actions taken together are designed to improve daily life for the Palestinians. However, the fulfillment of this formula by only one side – when we do what is incumbent upon us, but they do not do what is incumbent upon them – this is unacceptable to us. And furthermore, I can tell you that it is unacceptable to the Americans as well. And the Americans plan on demanding that the Palestinian side fulfill the obligations which they took upon themselves, in a complete, thorough and uncompromising fashion." – (Israel Radio, 24/7)