FM Shalom: "We are on the verge of a most crucial and decisive moment in the implementation of the Disengagement Plan."
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom welcomed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Jerusalem on Thursday (21 July 2005) as a partner "in our joint struggle to preserve our shared democratic values and way of life from the violence of the extremists.
"We are on the verge of a most crucial and decisive moment in the implementation of the Disengagement Plan. On the one hand, it provokes a difficult internal debate which, although difficult, we will manage with our inner strength. On the other hand, it brings new hope to us and our future generations. In this regard, we are stressing the need of coordination with all the relevant factors, mainly with the Palestinians. However, we will need the assistance of our friends in this matter."
Foreign Minister Shalom pointed out that, "For eight months now, Palestinian leader Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] has been claiming that he is too weak to deal with the terrorists effectively, but his action in the last few days has shown that he does have the ability to stand up to Hamas. Action to stop terrorism of Hamas and Islamic Jihad must not be just a temporary response to specific attacks. It must be adopted as a proactive strategy and the principle of policy so that our peace efforts can have any chance of success."
The two ministers discussed steps that must be taken to wrest control of peace efforts from the hands of the extremists and place it back in the hands of the moderates and how Israel and the United States can work together to promote greater regional cooperation in support of peace.
Secretary Rice responded that, "This is a critical time in the history of this region, because Prime Minister Sharon has taken an historic decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank. This is an effort – and I know that it is an effort by the prime minister and his government to improve the security situation for the Israeli people."
Commenting on "the need to resist any efforts by terrorists to destroy this moment of hope for the people of the Palestinian territories and for the people of Israel," Secretary Rice added: "There are always those who will try and destroy hope. President Abbas made a very fine statement the other day as the Palestinians have begun to act. I would just encourage them in that work because I am quite certain that the Palestinian mothers and fathers and grandparents want a world in which their children can live in peace and prosperity just as Israeli parents and grandparents want the same for their children."