Joint Press Conference by
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and
U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

Jerusalem, June 20, 2003

PRIME MINISTER SHARON: First, I would like to greet my friend, Secretary of State Colin Powell, with the words: Welcome to Jerusalem. You certainly know you do visit here quite often that you are among friends. I would also like to express our appreciation for your many efforts, your dedication and your determination in furthering the political process.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome President George Bush’s Special Envoy, Ambassador Wolf, Ambassador Satterfield, and to thank the United States Ambassador in Israel, Dan Kurtzer, for his efforts and contribution to promoting the process.

The latest developments in our region, which led to the Aqaba Summit, offer us many prospects, as well as quite a few risks. We have been presented with opportunities which we all hope will allow us to achieve quiet, and eventually, God willing, peace. I defined it this week as labor pains, the labor pains of the process. The State of Israel will make every effort, exhaust every possibility and will not miss any opportunity to try and arrive at a political process which will lead to a political settlement.

The State of Israel has undertaken the steps detailed in the Road Map in conjunction with the 14 points the Government of Israel decided upon, and in this framework, we have taken on other commitments. These are not easy things, they are even more difficult following nearly three years of the war of terror waged against us. However, these are commitments we have taken on in order to try and reach a political process, and we have implemented them.

However, we must also remember: as long as terror continues, as long as violence continues, as long as the terrible incitement rages, there will be no progress. There is no peace with terror.

Our Palestinian neighbors and their leaders must realize that the continuation of terror means the absence of a political progress. Only a genuine war against terror against its infrastructure, those who fund and initiate it and its dispatchers will lead to progress in an honest and genuine process.

Mr. Secretary, you are almost part of the family. Our talks are always good and friendly. I told you during our meeting, and I will tell you again here I will make every effort to achieve security and peace for the good of the people of Israel, and for the good of the people of the entire region. This is the commitment I have taken on myself, and I will do it.

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you for your welcome, and I do always feel at home here, especially since this is my second visit to Jerusalem within the past five weeks, and including the Aqaba meetings, this is our third meeting over the past five weeks.

When we all met at Aqaba, a little over two weeks ago, we all knew that we faced a moment of great opportunity, but also as the prime minister has just noted, a time of great challenge. With the end of the dictatorship in Iraq, and the emergence of new Palestinian leadership, we have an opportunity to successfully tackle the difficult task of ending terrorism, ending violence, bringing hope to the Israeli and Palestinian people, and making progress on a road map to a peaceful solution of this terrible conflict that continues to take innocent lives. The terrorists must not be, will not be allowed to deter us from confronting the challenges and solving those challenges peacefully. If at all possible, we must not be denied the chance to seize the opportunities that are before us. We know that there can never be a justification for the sudden death by rifle fire of an innocent child singing a song in the back seat of her car with her sister. There can never be a justification for the sudden death and horrendous injuries of those who were simply riding on a bus to their place of work or to their school. This has to end.

At Aqaba, President Bush, standing alongside Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas, recommitted his administration to the vision of a Holy Land that must be shared between the State of Palestine and the State of Israel, living at peace with each other, and with every nation of the Middle East. We dispatched Ambassador John Wolf to work with Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Feltman to make sure that we all keep focused on the commitments made to the president and to the world at Aqaba; commitments that are critical to implementing the road map toward a negotiated peace.

There is much to be done. I am encouraged by the steps Israel has taken to release some prisoners and to dismantle some unauthorized outposts. These were the commitments that the prime minister made at Aqaba, and these efforts need to continue along with intensive security cooperation with the Palestinians in order to directly confront the threat of terror – to bring terror to an end permanently – only if both sides work together and establish a true, lasting security arrangement for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

When I meet with Prime Minister Abbas this afternoon, I will urge him to move quickly, very quickly, to implement security reforms and to come forward with specific plans to take responsibility for security in Gaza and Bethlehem. The United States will stand at his side as he takes steps, courageous steps, to create new institutions and a prospect for better life for Palestinians. We will work intensively with Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas. The pace and urgency of our work needs to be maintained in order to capitalize quickly and decisively on this moment that history has given to us.

Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for your hospitality. I assure you once again of President Bush’s commitment. I assure you once again that we will do everything we can to help end terror and violence; to push through; to overwhelm those who would try to stop us on the path to peace. We have been working not only with you, Mr. Prime Minister, and Prime Minister Abbas, but with our friends in the European Union, members of the quartet, and other friends around the world to make sure the world fully understands that terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the other similar organizations that are not committed to peace, but committed to violence and to denying the dreams of the people of this land for a peaceful solution – we must make sure that all international pressure possible is brought to bear on these organizations, so that they know that they will not succeed; they will not prevail; they will be dealt with.

Mr. Prime Minister, I again thank you for your welcome and for your hospitality. Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, targeted assassinations have been a problem between the United States and Israel for some time. The two sides seem now to be coming closer together. Has this problem ceased to be an issue between the United States and Israel, and if so, could you explain how that came about.

SECRETARY POWELL: The Prime Minister and I have discussed this on a number of occasions, as I have with a number of Israeli officials over the last couple of years. As the president said at Aqaba, the security of Israel is uppermost in our mind, and it has to be the priority of the prime minister of Israel to defend his people. And we know that there are occasions that arise when terrorists are coming in – let’s characterize them as ticking bombs – when we know a bomb is heading in. And we can understand the need to intercept such a terrorist and deal with that individual and make sure that innocent lives are not lost. When one goes beyond that and expands those kinds of activities to individuals or to situations where it might not be a ticking bomb, then, as we have discussed, the consequences of such action and how they play into our broader efforts for peace must be taken into consideration. That is the position that we have discussed with the Israelis on many occasions, and I think the implications are rather clear. The standing of our position should be clear.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Israel has agreed to a limited period of time under the title "cessation of violence." We have heard the foreign minister talking about it. At this time, what are your expectations from the Israeli side regarding military action and what are your expectations from the Palestinian side? And if I may please, a quick question to the prime minister, (in Hebrew)?

SECRETARY POWELL: Both sides made commitments at Aqaba. In addition, at Sharm el-Sheikh the day before, Arab nations made commitments. We expect all sides to meet their commitments, and we expect all sides to exercise some patience in order for the other side to be able to meet their commitments. It’s only been two weeks since Aqaba. Tragically, in the first week after Aqaba, we saw terrorists come forward to try to derail everything. This was not a surprise to anyone at Aqaba; we knew that those who were most threatened by this, those who do not want to see two people living side by side in peace would act, and they did. And they acted in a terrible, tragic way. We have to punch through that, and it has now been a week or so since Ambassador Wolf has been on the ground to work with the parties. He will stay here to continue to work with the parties, so we hope that both sides will give this new start some time to take effect. We have had a number of meetings with both sides concerning security arrangements in Gaza – there were meetings again last night – I hope more meetings will take place in the very near future. Some issues have been dealt with and resolved, some difficult issues still remain. The prime minister and I spoke about this and, of course, he always has the security of Israel uppermost in his mind, but he also has been quite faithful to the commitments made at Aqaba and I hope that there will be enough time to find a peaceful solution, because the alternative is a return to where we were before Aqaba and that was not leading to peace and it was not leading to security for either Israelis or Palestinians.

PRIME MINSTER SHARON: The question was whether Israel has decided to limit its operations in any way during the first period when the Palestinians are supposed to organize their own forces. The answer was that my commitment is the commitment to the security of the citizens of Israel and to the security of the State of Israel. This is what I have assumed on myself and this is what I will do. We have proposed to the Palestinian Authority to assume responsibility as fast as possible for those areas where they seem that they will be able to make sure that there will be peace and security. What we will do the moment that they assume responsibility, while they assume responsibility, until that time we will, of course, continue with our operations. We know that it might take a few days until they assume responsibility but once they do, everything depends on their performance. One thing always takes precedence and priority and that is the security of the citizens of Israel. I am committed to that.

QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, your position on terrorism is well understood, but are you willing to accept a Palestinian cease-fire that ends terrorism but doesn’t totally eliminate Hamas and Islamid Jihad as political movements that are allowed to run for office, or as social movements providing services to Palestinian people, in other words, are still important and operating in the Palestinian Authority? And Mr. Secretary, is the United States seeking the total elimination of these groups as well?

PRIME MINSTER SHARON: In order to reach peace, and we want to reach peace and I am committed to reach a political arrangement, which I hope will lead us to peace – in order to do that we have to make sure that there is no independent terror organization on the ground. The terror organizations must be fought. The Palestinian Authority must fight terror organizations, it must disarm them, it must make sure that their infrastructure no longer exists. These are imperative measures, and they are important first and foremost for the government led by Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen. This is certainly a condition that will enable us to live here in quiet. So long as there is terror, there will be no political process. Political process cannot coincide with terror. That is why we expect the Palestinian Authority to wage a true, genuine struggle against terrorism, a true, genuine one. Without that, I believe we cannot reach peace or a political arrangement. I don’t deal with the question what happens if they turn into a political entity. As terrorist entities they have to be fought, they have to be disarmed, they have to be put to justice, they have to be punished. We have to make sure that they do not exist any more.

SECRETARY POWELL: Hamas takes credit for these terrorist acts. President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas stood up at Aqaba and made a commitment to peace. The enemy of peace has been Hamas, especially over the last two weeks. I don’t think it is possible any longer to separate it out into various pieces. The funding is fungible, the leadership takes credit and despite whatever charitable or other social good these organizations may perform, as long as they have as an organizational culture a commitment to terror and violence and a desire to destroy the State of Israel, it is a problem we have to deal with in its entirety and that is the message that we are taking to our friends around the world as well. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the position of the United States regarding the fact that following your last visit to Damascus, the Syrians have not really met most of the American demands regarding the war against terror, dismantling offices and ways of communications and financial infrastructure?

SECRETARY POWELL: They took some limited steps, those limited steps are totally inadequate. We have gone back to the Syrians to let them know that we find their actions inadequate. We will continue to press them. We will work with our colleagues in the international community to put pressure on Syria. We are going to make it clear to Syria that until they move in this more positive direction that we have outlined for them, there will not be a better relationship with the United States, and ultimately it will affect their interests. The region is changing. Saddam Hussein and that evil regime is gone. The leaders in the Middle East are committed to a peace process – using the process of the road map to get to our objective. Syria can either be a contributing member to this process, or continue to be a terror-supporting regime that does not want to be a part of this process, in which case there will consequences for such action in terms of inability to have a more positive relationship with the United States and we hope other responsible members of the international community. And we will continue to convey that message to Syria in no uncertain terms.