(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met today (Monday), 13 December 2004, with a delegation of members of the US House of Representatives, led by Majority Whip Roy Blount (R-MO) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

At the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Sharon said: “A window of opportunity has been opened but it depends on the question of whether or not the Palestinians will fight terrorism.  Yesterday, we witnessed a very harsh terrorist attack.  Developments in the region depend on the question of whether or not the Palestinians understand that they must act against terrorism.  This is the current situation.  We are interested in advancing together; my government and I are committed to peace but this depends on one thing – if there is quiet.  To my regret, we have not seen any change up until now.”

Prime Minister Sharon added that, “We are interested in coordinating moves but we cannot do so if there is terrorism.  We still do not see any change in the [Palestinian] Authority’s policy on this issue.  True, there will be elections and true, we want to assist them in the process, but there still isn’t even one small sign of trying to lower the fire.  The Fatah organization released a statement yesterday regarding its intention to continue perpetrating terrorist attacks.  The Palestinians must understand that nothing will move forward if there is no quiet.”

Regarding incitement, Prime Minister Sharon said that the situation today is better than it has been in the past even though there is still much to do.

Prime Minister Sharon said that it is clear that Israel will never compromise on the issue of security.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the Americans must focus on investments in economic projects in the Palestinian Authority and transfer funds for this purpose only, and not for economic budgets since such funds will either disappear or be used to finance terrorism.

Regarding Egypt, Prime Minister Sharon said that the situation has improved over that of previous years.  The Prime Minister discussed the release of Azzam Azzam and said that Egypt must prevent smuggling from Sinai into the Gaza Strip.

Regarding the political situation, Prime Minister Sharon said, “I understand that you are meeting today with Opposition Chairman Labor MK Shimon Peres. It may be that next week he will no longer be serving in his current position, if I succeed in finishing this very complicated move.”

Prime Minister Sharon and the US Congressional delegation also discussed the issues of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, as well as economic issues.