(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this morning (Sunday), 19 June 2005, with US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Israeli Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon, Prime Minister Sharon’s Adviser Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Sharon’s Diplomatic Adviser Shalom Turgeman, Prime Minister Sharon’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and Prime Minister Sharon’s Media Adviser Asaf Shariv attended the meeting for the Israeli side. US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch and US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams attended for the American side.

Prime Minister Sharon welcomed Dr. Rice on her visit to Israel and thanked her for US President Bush’s and the American administration’s support of the Disengagement Plan and for the US assistance in advancing various regional processes and issues.

Prime Minister Sharon briefed Dr. Rice on the events of last weekend and told her about his conversation with the Abukasis family from Sderot. He said that the Palestinians are not implementing their commitments regarding the war on terrorism and the dismantling of the terrorist organizations and pointed out that terrorist activity (Qassam rocket attacks, weapons smuggling, attempts to initiate suicide attacks, etc.) is continuing both in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria. The Prime Minister said that it is clear that Islamic Jihad has in practice withdrawn from the calm and is initiating, planning and perpetrating terrorist attacks according to orders arriving from Damascus. He added that given the absence of Palestinian activity and in order to preserve the calm, Israel is taking effective security measures that have been successful in foiling terrorist operations, mainly in Judea and Samaria [see also Islamic Jihad explosives laboratory uncovered in Jenin].

Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that if the situation continues, the Palestinians will again lose an opportunity to move forward. He said, “I will meet with Abu Mazen this Tuesday. We intend to hold a successful meeting that will lead to progress in relations between us. The agenda for the meeting has just about been agreed upon to the satisfaction of both sides. However, I intend to ask Abu Mazen how it can be possible to make progress towards the Roadmap, what he intends to do on the various security issues and how he intends to act to dismantle the terrorist organizations.”

Dr. Rice updated Prime Minister Sharon on her meetings in the Palestinian Authority (PA).  In her words, while Abu Mazen genuinely wants quiet and peace, he is currently in a difficult internal struggle.  She added that Abu Mazen is not Arafat and is the best alternative. She expressed satisfaction over Israel’s contacts with the PA and asked that further gestures, which do not endanger Israel’s security, be considered since, “The US will never ask of you anything which endangers your security.”

Dr. Rice said that the next three months will be very decisive vis-a-vis the future of peace in the region.  She noted that the US is making great efforts and added that the G-8 countries will be brought into the picture this week so that the disengagement may be successfully implemented and that citizens here may enjoy quiet and peace.

On the issue of home demolitions, Dr. Rice said that she welcomes the apparent arrangement on the issue.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel has released 900 prisoners, 500 in the first stage and 400 afterwards (several criteria having been changed). A joint committee has been established to consider criteria for an additional release of prisoners; the issue will be discussed at the Prime Minister’s meeting with Abu Mazen.

Prime Minister Sharon added that during his meeting with Abu Mazen, the Palestinians will be presented with a series of measures to improve the Palestinian population’s fabric of life and the status of the disengagement in the context of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings in order to bring about a successful meeting.