FM Shalom: Good afternoon. I just concluded a very good meeting with Secretary Powell. We discussed various issues, including what is going on in our region and the ways that should be taken in order to bring the peace process back to track.
I arrived to Washington this morning. I had a meeting with Vice President Cheney. And from here I’ll go to have a meeting with Dr. Rice.
Q: After a slow start, the administration has gotten its act together and has decided it’s deeply troubled by the assassination of Hamas’s founding leader. How do you feel about the change in tone since Rice was on TV this morning?
FM Shalom: First, I would like all of you to know that this decision was taken by the Israeli Cabinet itself, and it was not coordinated with the American administration, like the Hamas claimed this morning. We are taking our decisions by our own, by ourselves. And it was a decision that was taken as a self-defense against these terrorist organizations.
Ahmed Yassin was responsible personally and directly to hundreds of attacks against Israel that caused us hundreds of casualties. We believe that Yassin was the driving force of many attacks against Israeli citizens.
So what we are trying to do now is to send a very clear message to all leaders of the extremist organizations that if they will continue to plan, to carry out more attacks against Israel, they can’t get immunity anymore, because they don’t deserve immunity.
Q: What do you make of the U.S. criticism of what you did? Because you draw parallels between the fight against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to what you’re faced with from Gaza, but the U.S. is criticizing you.
FM Shalom: Absolutely. We believe that al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas, all of them, are motivated by the same ideology to fight against those countries that are sharing the same values of democracy, freedom, human rights, rule of law, and against those Moslem countries that they think are too close to the West and to Israel.
I was talking to Vice President Cheney and to Secretary Powell about the operation that took place in Gaza, and I told them that we have all the information about the personal involvement of Ahmed Yassin in all of those attacks, and if they would like us to give them this information, we’ll be very happy to do it.
Q: When you talked to Secretary Powell today, did you feel any sense that he was troubled?
FM Shalom: We’re talking about what will happen in the future about the peace initiative of the prime minister and what will need to be done in our region in the near future.
Thank you very much.