The two ministers addressed the press after their meeting in London.
Joint press conference by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Israel Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
London, 26 July 2005
JACK STRAW: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It has been my very great pleasure to welcome to London and to provide lunch for my good friend the Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom.
We began our meeting with my thanks on behalf of the British Government and the people of London to the Israeli Government and the Israeli people for the wonderful messages of support and condolences which we have received since the terrible terrorist atrocities which took place on the 7th of July and the further attempt which took place just 5 days ago on the 21st of July.
The worldwide expressions of sympathy and of solidarity have meant a great deal to us, but the support of the Israeli public is especially significant because we are now facing something which you have long lived with, namely the threat of suicide bombing. In Britain over a 30 year period we became all too accustomed to IRA terrorism but until now the British public have not lived with the danger of murderers prepared to take their own lives along with the lives of whoever happens to be in the same street, underground train, a bus or wherever. And this particularly repugnant form of terrorism places different demands on our Police and Security Services and on people going about their daily lives, and Londoners of many, many faiths, Christian, Jewish, Moslem, other faiths and of many nationalities have met these indiscriminate attacks with great resolve. And there can be absolutely no excuses for terrorism whether it is in London, in Sharm El-Sheikh or in Natanya.
Moving on to what we hope is going to be rather better news I have said to Silvan how much we all applaud the determination of the Israeli Government to press ahead with the withdrawal from Gaza next month despite the provocation by terrorists who reject any hope of progress. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Mahmoud Abbas have our strongest possible support in their efforts to make this momentous step succeed. We very much hope that the success of this engagement and the building of stronger Palestinian institutions will lead back to the Road Map and ultimately to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and I was able to brief the Minister on the proceedings at the G8 Heads of State and Government meeting in Gleneagles and because of the terrorist atrocities here in London on 7 July I had to share that session where we had an address from Jim Wolfensohn and agreed on a US$3 billion package of assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
Now terrorists claim to care about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories but they offer no solutions – nothing – but simply more murder, more killings. We reject terrorism because it is an attack on the most basic of human freedoms, the freedom to be alive and the freedom to stay alive and we reject terrorism because it offers nothing but bloodshed as a response to the many difficulties facing the world.
SILVAN SHALOM: Thank you Jack. It is a great pleasure to be in London once again. Let me open my remarks by expressing to the government and people of Britain Israel’s sincere condolences over the recent terrorist outrages in London and I believe all of us would like to extend the same condolences to the Egyptian people about what happened in Sharm El-Sheikh. We in Israel sadly are all too familiar with the devastation caused by such acts of wanton brutality and our hearts go out to the families of the victims. Britain and Israel share the same values of tolerance and the rule of law which are at once both the greatest threat to the Islamic activists and the greatest defense against their excesses. Israel joins Britain in reaffirming our commitment to these values. From our own experience, particularly in times of turmoil and debate, we know that it is imperative that the limits of legitimate protest be clearly established and enforced, otherwise democracy itself is in danger. There is no room for tolerance or understanding of the motives and justifications of these suicide bombers whether they live in London, or Sharm El-Sheikh, or Tel Aviv, New York or Madrid. Nothing justifies the action of the taking of innocent lives.
Our discussions today of course focussed on the question of terrorism and how best it can be combated. In Israel ongoing Palestinian terrorism remains the key obstacle to the return to political dialogue that we need in order to bring the peace that we seek with all our neighbours. Even today as Israel prepares to give peace another chance by dismantling settlements and handing over the entire territory of Gaza to Palestinian control, the key Palestinian terrorist organisations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with the active support of Syria and Iran, continue their campaign of indiscriminate violence against our citizens. This has to stop, and today the Foreign Secretary and I discussed what Britain and Europe can do to help in this regard. Israel welcomes the EU’s efforts to support the Palestinian Chairman, Abu Mazen, and we are encouraged by Britain’s responsible and practical guidance of the EU at this sensitive time. Israel looks to the EU to take proactive measures to prevent foreign elements, such as Syria and Iran and the Lebanese proxy, Hizbullah, from undermining our peace efforts.
At the same time it is clear that Abu Mazen himself must also act if he is to wrest the fate of our peace effort from the hands of the extremists and put it back in the hands of the moderates. In this context it is important that the EU makes clear its opposition to the inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian election due in January. Radical terrorist groups such as Hamas are the enemies of the very democracy that all peace-loving people wish to see for the Palestinian people. To include the fundamentalist terrorist Hamas as a legitimate participant in the political process is to open the door to a Trojan horse which will destroy any hope of Palestinian democracy and of peace in the Middle East. The same goes for the Lebanon where Hizbullah is seeking to participate in the Lebanese politics even as it continues its terrorist activities against Israel. Today I once again urge Britain to put Hizbullah on the EU blacklist of terrorist organisations and to take the lead in ensuring full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution no. 1559 calling for the dismantling of all armed militias in Lebanon. Europe has considerable influence in the Lebanese arena, and we hope that under Britain’s Presidency the European Union consensus can be reached in order to realise that potential.
On the question of Iran, I have been reassured by the Foreign Secretary’s firm commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities in the light of the growing power of the extremists in Tehran. As reflected in the recent Presidential elections there, it is imperative that the EU Three maintain their unified resolve in this matter. This is even more important when we recall Iran’s intimate involvement in international terror. Terror-sponsoring Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons. Only great determination on the part of the international community will prevent it.
Finally let me thank the Foreign Secretary once again for his kind hospitality. Israel and Britain are strong partners, not only in our commitment to democracy and peace but also in a rich area of co-operation in the fields of culture, high tech, trade, tourism and so on. It is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss with our British colleagues how we can continue to promote these ties to the benefit of both peoples.
QUESTION: Can I ask both Ministers. There have been statements made in this country and also abroad, principally by the Mayor of London amongst others, that there is a differentiation and almost an excuse for suicide bombing in one part of the world, that is Israel, as distinct from suicide bombing anywhere else. The Mayor of London specifically said that the Palestinians have the right to go down the road of suicide bombing on the basis that they have only got their bodies to advance their cause. How do you react to this? Is it something which is condemnable, and if so what other action could be taken? And the second question I have is related to the Middle East peace process. There have been a number of terrorist incidents over the last few days, including the killing of an Israeli couple. There is a clear sign that disengagement will go ahead, but what is the EU and the G8 going to be able to do to ensure that Gaza, once handed over to whoever it is going to be handed over to, does not become a centre for those people seeking the destruction of the State of Israel?
SILVAN SHALOM: I would like to say very clearly that there is no way to understand what the Mayor of London has said. To distinguish between the blood of innocent Israeli civilians and the blood of others is unacceptable. I think those statements are very, very extreme and of course they made us very upset in Israel by listening to him saying that he can justify terrorism in Israel. Terrorism cannot be justified no matter if it was carried out here or in our country. Innocent people are innocent people everywhere and I would like to say that the time has come to condemn him strongly. It is not the first time that he has used such kinds of statements and expressions. He compared the Israeli leaders that are representing my party, the Likud, to the Hamas and said they are two sides of the same coin. It is something that I read yesterday with the Prime Minister Blair. And today I read it with Foreign Secretary Straw and I am sure that Britain is against it, but it is something that we would like to hear very loud and clear from the British authorities because in Israel we were shocked to hear those statements that were made by the Mayor of London.
JACK STRAW: Let me deal with this. First of all to say that Foreign Minister Shalom as he said has raised this matter both with the Prime Minister at his meeting yesterday and again with me in the strongest possible terms. There can be no excuses for terrorism, none whatever. Terrorism is indiscriminate in its victims, it is incoherent in its political aims, it is against democracy and it is against life. And on the issue of terrorism there is no case for relativism whatsoever. It is simply wrong and it has produced misery in the world. And as a Saudi journalist was asking in the Financial Times last week, he asked rhetorically but it is a very good question, exactly what has been produced of benefit for people in the Arab world as a result of this terrorism, still less for anybody else. There is only a negative answer to that.
So far as Mr Livingstone is concerned, let me make it absolutely clear that his remarks were as wrong as they are unacceptable. There is no and there can be no moral equivalence between a lawful political party and its supporters operating in a democracy – Israel – and a terrorist organisation whose so-called political method is the slaughter of innocents, and it was quite wrong of Mr Livingstone to suggest there was any kind of equivalence there.
You also asked about the withdrawal from Gaza and what the EU and the G8 could do to assist. First of all it is to give every support to the Government of Israel, to the people of Israel and to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians in their efforts to ensure that this withdrawal occurs in a peaceful and constructive way, because I made clear when I was in both Ramallah and Jerusalem a few week ago, this is a great opportunity for the whole of the Middle East, particularly for the Palestinians, but there is also a great risk involved.
Secondly, what we have to do is to ensure by practical measures that there is support for the Palestinians, both in terms of their economic reconstruction, the rebuilding of their political institutions and also the strengthening of their security forces so that they have the capacity to take over the running of what could and should be the beginnings of that separate viable State of Palestine living alongside a secure and separate State of Israel and that is what we intend to do.
QUESTION: Foreign Secretary, can I ask you two questions. First of all returning to the issue of the degree to which the war in Iraq might or might not have inspired the kind of terrorism we are seeing now, while accepting what your government has said repeatedly that this kind of terrorism predates the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to what extent would you accept that for Moslem young men in this country, the kind who allegedly carried out these acts, watching those nightly pictures from the war in Iraq and what has followed in Iraq might for many of them have been the final straw, the tipping point if you like, and at least enflamed their passions and headed them towards this kind of act.
And secondly, to what extent would you share the view of your colleague about Hamas and Hizbullah being excluded from the elections in Israel and Lebanon? To what extent might their inclusion not send out exactly the right signal about the democratic path being preferred to the path of terrorism?
JACK STRAW: Let me deal with the first point. I know – everybody knows – the roots of this excuse for terrorism now involving suicide bombers in Europe as well as elsewhere go back years beyond the military action in Iraq. They just do. And this exclusive theology which wholly perverts and hijacks Islam has roots decades ago, but at least one decade ago. And it was over a decade ago that these people first thought to blow up the whole of the World Trade Center. It just happens to be a fact. Secondly, if these people are watching carefully what is going in Iraq, what they will be seeing is Iraqi terrorists and some outside terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam, entirely wrongly, and killing who? Killing scores and scores – hundreds – not of British or American soldiers, but hundreds and hundreds of other Iraqis, all of whom are Moslem, so there is really no excuse whatsoever for it.
You asked about the proscription of Hamas and Hizbullah. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned their military wings are proscribed already as a result of legislation which I introduced when I was Home Secretary and decisions I made. The question of whether the whole of the organisation should be banned is a matter for Charles Clarke, my colleague the present Home Secretary, and it is based on the evidence and within the European Union. It comes down to the same thing but it is a matter which is kept under very close review.
QUESTION: I would like to ask two questions to you both. The first one is related to what I see now as the Israeli drive for Britain to adopt the measures similar to what the Israelis are adopting in the occupied territories and which did not bring about peace but provoked more terror or violence and in that respect is Britain going to go along this way or to adopt a political solution as well and engage Moslems rather than criminalise them and marginalise them?
The second question is also related to Iran and everyone knows that Israel has 300 nuclear war weapons. Now are you going to continue with this double standard or are you going to say that if you have guarantees from Iran that it will use it for civilian uses this will be accepted because to deprive a Middle Eastern country from nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes on the basis of intention is like shooting someone just because of thinking that he will do something.
JACK STRAW: On the first, both Israel and the United Kingdom are democracies and our police services therefore have to be accountable in a way that is not the case in countries which are not democracies. Different countries, different democracies, have got different police traditions, we will make our own decisions. But I just say to you, Sir, that the context of policing in this country has wholly changed since the 7th of July because of this now present risk and reality of suicide bombing. And the job of the London Police is to protect everybody. A quarter of the people who live in London don’t come from the United Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of them are Moslem and it was many Moslems as well as others who ended up getting killed and injured in these suicide bombings. And if you don’t mind me saying so, you are wholly wrong to suggest that there is some kind of alternative here between the security measures we have to take and a dialogue with our Moslem brothers and sisters. Both are necessary, but the one thing we cannot have is a conversation with the leaders of this terrorism and their political objectives because the leaders deny they are leaders and they have no political objectives.
On the other issue which is about Iran. It is Iran which is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. By that treaty it has said that it will take no steps to develop any part of a nuclear weapons system. It has also said that it is taking no steps to develop a nuclear weapons system. The issue has never been whether Iran has a right to run nuclear power stations. The issue is over what amounts to dual use facilities and that is the subject of the negotiations currently taking place.
QUESTION: Two questions if I may, the first one to the Israeli Foreign Minister. What practical steps or advice is the Israeli government giving to the British authorities to hunt down those responsible for the London bombings? And a question to our own Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister was pretty clear in his news conference that the situation in Iraq was being used in a sense as a recruiting sergeant. Now although you dismissed the notion of Iraq causing the London bombing, is the government now acknowledging its effect that people are being recruited to the cause because of the situation there now?
SILVAN SHALOM: The world should be united in its combat against terrorism, against those radicals who are trying to ruin our lives, and those radicals are doing it against democratic countries that are sharing the same values, democracy, freedom, human rights, rule of law and against Moslem countries that they believe are too close to adopt those values and they are too moderate in their eyes. That is why they carried out attacks against Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, all of those countries that they feel are too close to the West or even maybe that some of them are having some dialogue with Israel. But more than that, they are very much afraid of the new systems being adopted. There is an earthquake in these days in the Middle East. A free election took place in Iraq, in Lebanon, and is planned to take place in Egypt in a short time. The Parliament in Kuwait adopted some amendments in their Constitution to enable women to vote, and even to get elected. That is something which is threatening those radicals, so we should work together in order to stop them. We are sharing our assessments and our experience with all the free world, not only with the United Kingdom. We are sharing our information with them, and they are sharnig information with one another, so all of us are in the same boat to fight and combat this phenomenon. The United States, all the European countries, even some others that I don’t want to mention, all of us together are sharing and are trying to share the same information in order to get prepared and to prevent the next suicide attack.
JACK STRAW: I didn’t see the Prime Minister’s press conference because I was talking to some Foreign Ministers but I do know what he thinks about this issue, and it is the same as what I think about it which is of course those who are seeking to excuse terrorism will seek any excuse they can but as I believe he did say, and I have certainly said, don’t believe for a moment that if we were to withdraw from Iraq, or if we had never been there, this terrorism would not have taken place or would stop.
SILVAN SHALOM: 9/11 was before the war in Iraq.
JACK STRAW: Thank you. 9/11 was before the war in Iraq. Let me say that the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center was well before the armed Interfada in Israel, so was the attempt on the American Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam which killed hundreds of black Africans, not Americans. Silvan has just read out a long list of countries which have suffered this kind of terrorism. None of those countries happen to support the Americans or the British in Iraq. So it is, if you don’t mind me saying so, pretty poor journalism for people to run around for excuses when these excuses are simply not there and which are based on a false analysis that somehow if it wasn’t for Iraq this would disappear. If it wasn’t Iraq the next demand would be that we not only leave Afghanistan but reinstall the Taliban in Afghanistan and after that, we should accept that Israel should not exist, and once we had dealt with that, that we should stand democracy on its head. And we need to be aware of the ruthless nature and the absolutist nature of the demands that these terrorists make. And it is not a political negotiation we are in. What they are trying to do is to destroy our kind of society and the society not just of Christian-based democracies but of Islamic countries, Jewish countries, many countries of every creed or of none, but which believe in that basic human right, the right to be alive.