FM SHALOM: Good afternoon. We had very important discussions this morning in the White House, and now here with Secretary Powell. We were focused on the issues that are going on between Israel and its neighbors, including the conflict that we have with the Palestinians. We had very long discussions about what needs to be done after the war in Iraq, and we hope that together we will be able to implement the resumption of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
I thanked the president, the vice president and Secretary Powell for their help to the Israeli economy by giving the supplemental aid of $1 billion and $9 billion in long-term guarantees, and I told them it will be a very good signal for many foreign investors who will come to invest again in Israel, after withholding their investments in the last two years since the intifada started.
I was briefed about what’s going on in the war. We are looking forward to working together, and we’ll do everything in order to do it with a lot of understanding that we have
Q: Mr. Minister, is Israel prepared to move directly to negotiations from the road map, or when you get the road map – we know the terms already – will Israel want to have some reconsideration or renegotiations, maybe, of those terms?
FM SHALOM: We think that there is a new way or new path that we can follow after the nomination of Abu Mazen. We think it’s a positive step in the right direction. We will do everything in order to contribute to the efforts that need to be taken against terror, if he will be able to do it. We think that without ending the terror, there won’t be any possibility to go forward.
We tried before to proceed on both tracks at the same time. Fighting one another on a daily basis, and at night negotiating at hotels is something that cannot work. And if we will be in a position that they will fight terror, they will find us a partner, a real partner, to implement President Bush’s vision of the 24th of June. I told the president and Secretary Powell and the vice president and Dr. Rice that we are adopting the vision of President Bush, and anything that will be a genuine, accurate reflection of this vision will be something that we will be able to work with.
Q: What did the president tell you today?
FM SHALOM: First of all, I want to thank him for half an hour that he gave me today. I know busy he is. But usually, I don’t give information about what others are telling me. If you want to ask me about what I’ve told them, it’s something that you can ask; not what they have told me – something that I never do.
Q: Foreign Minister Shalom, previously, the prime minister had said that there would have to be a pause, a period of time without any violence, without any acts of terror, before Israel would resume negotiations. What is the prime minister thinking now? You said that there would still have to be an end to terrorism. Is there a period of time after which the prime minister would want to resume the negotiations on the road map?
FM SHALOM: I think that if Abu Mazen will not take the right measures against terror when he comes to office in his first or second month, he won’t be able to do it after it. And I think it would be very important for him and for the future of the region that he will take those measures against the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations when he comes into office. You have to understand that we won’t be able to go forward and to get progress unless the terror relents, and that’s something that is very acceptable and understood by the administration.
Thank you very much.