FM Shalom was interviewed on the morning of the visit in Israel of the US Secy of State and the foreign ministers of China and Egypt.

 Main points of Israel Radio interview with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom


FM Silvan Shalom and US Secy of State Condoleezza Rice (Photo: Flash 90)

1. Concerning the American proposal to expand and add good-will gestures to the Palestinians, including transferring the city of Jenin to their security control:

We have to distinguish between two things. Regarding humanitarian gestures, I am in favor and I think that is the right thing to do. We have no quarrel with the Palestinians themselves; our fight is against their leadership, which doesn’t want to take the necessary steps. Regarding transferring control of Jenin, I think that would be a mistake, a bad mistake, because we would in effect be giving up the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, which state that in every city from which we withdraw, the Palestinian Authority must assume responsibility for security and collecting weapons from the terrorists. I think that the transfer of Jenin would send the wrong message to the Palestinians; it says they don’t have to do a thing and they will continue to benefit from our fulfillment of our commitments at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit.

2. Concerning the declaration of the Palestinian foreign minister, el-Qidwa, that the Palestinians do not intend to collect weapons or to disarm the terrorist infrastructure:

I think this declaration is extremely serious and it no doubt indicates that they do not intend to fulfill their commitments. For years the Palestinians been promising to do things, and the Israeli government somehow turned a blind eye and said, okay, we will continue, even though they are not doing anything. This is wrong. On the one hand, we have to make gestures towards the public itself, there is no doubt that we need to ease restrictions and allow them freedom of movement, jobs – these are important things.

3. Concerning arms sales to China:

It is impossible to hide the crisis existing today between Israel and the United States concerning defense exports. This crisis indeed exists; we are doing everything to overcome it. The American Secretary of State is arriving in Israel today and the Chinese Foreign Minister will be arriving this evening. I think that this issue demands a solution; the situation as it stands is intolerable.

We have come a long way: today, any deal involving security exports above a certain sum requires a triple permit: from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister. Therefore, I think that today we are much more with our finger on the pulse than we were in the past. Our contacts with the United States to try to reach a resolution of the problem are very far along, and I am confident that the solution is just around the corner. Of course, we are sorry if things were done that were perhaps not acceptable to the Americans, but I would like to say that these things were done innocently; we have no desire to hurt the United States. The United States is our greatest ally and therefore the things that were perhaps done were not done with the intention of harming the United States’ interests.

4. Concerning Israeli-Chinese relations and the visit of the Chinese foreign minister:

In general, there has been an enormous improvement in our relations with China. China, which for many years has traditionally leaned towards the Arab side, is today trying to take a more significant part in what is happening in the Middle East. Its special emissary comes here every few months. However, there is no doubt that the visit of a Chinese foreign minister is unusual. They don’t do that every day, certainly not in Israel, and I would like to say that this visit is also an opening to additional visits in the future. We have many things that we intend to discuss with them today.

Indeed, we have a rare occasion: the visit of the foreign minister of the largest power in the world – the USA; the visit of the foreign minister of the largest country in the world – China; and we have also today the visit of the Egyptian foreign minister – the largest Arab state in the world. All this is happening in one day, something that perhaps doesn’t happen here even once a month or every other month.

5. Do you agree that what prompted these visits was the Prime Minister’s Disengagement Plan?

There is no doubt that it helped, that that’s part of it, but today, everyone understands that if they want to take part in what is happening between us and the Palestinians, they have to adopt a more balanced approach. This has been made clear to them time and again: if you want to be participants, you can’t stick to the traditional approach that adopts the Palestinian positions in toto.
We are today experiencing an "onslaught" of high-level visits. This is very important and points to an improvement in Israel’s international status, something that we have been working for day and night, and I am pleased that there is progress in this area. By any standard, these achievements are unusual.