(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Tuesday, 15 March 2005) with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who arrived in Israel for the dedication of the new Yad Vashem museum.
Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel is interested in advancing relations with Belgium in a variety of areas and in expanding dialogue with it. Israel is concerned over the increase of anti-Semitism in Europe, including Belgium, he said, adding that there is great importance in education and legislation on the matter. He expressed his appreciation for Belgian King Albert II’s participation in the memorial ceremonies at Auschwitz.
Prime Minister Sharon noted the importance of the decision taken by the European Union to include Hamas on the list of terrorist organizations. It is also important that EU member states move to actively implement the freezing of funds that are transferred to the organization and to deal with the infrastructures that raise money for it in Europe, he said. The prime minister emphasized that it is important that the European Union act decisively to include Hizbullah on its list of terrorist organizations and that they should not distinguish between the military and diplomatic branches of Hizbullah, which presents the main danger to Mahmoud Abbas’s (Abu Mazen’s) regime. Hizbullah encourages terrorist activities and threatens the cease-fire Abbas is attempting to arrange with the Palestinian rejectionist organizations, as was seen in the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Sharon said that he believes that a new opportunity has been created with Abbas’s rule. There has been a start to Palestinian activity, mainly in deploying forces, however active
operations have yet to take place. We will give every opportunity to Abu Mazen, said Sharon; however, it is important to know which direction he is moving in, and he must begin to destroy the terrorist organizations.
Prime Minister Sharon remarked that it has been made clear to the Palestinians that they must fulfill their responsibilities, mainly a genuine war against terrorism and dismantling terrorist infrastructures. Without genuine counterterrorist action by the Palestinians, it would not be possible to advance anything in the diplomatic process.
Prime Minister Verhofstadt said that the best way to fight anti-Semitism is to mark the terrible events of the Holocaust. He told Prime Minister Sharon that Belgium has decided to mark
Holocaust Remembrance Day and that the country has joined the international effort to remember the Holocaust.
Prime Minister Verhofstadt said that the key to the success of the process lies with deep changes within the Palestinian Authority. He said it is important that the Palestinians establish a democracy, cease educating toward hatred of Israel, fight against corruption, and uphold human rights. He noted that the European Union is anxious to aid in these matters.
Prime Minister Verhofstadt said he would work to implement the European Union’s decision regarding Hamas in Belgium itself.
The two prime ministers also discussed matters relating to Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.
On the matter of the security fence, Prime Minister Sharon said that it is being built to reduce terrorism originating in Judea and Samaria and that so far it has proven itself. It is not a political border, and the permanent settlement borders will not be decided based on the positioning of the fence today, he said. The fence is an important means of achieving peace, since it prevents terrorists from blowing up the process, he said. "We hope that the day will come where there will be no terrorism and no smuggling, and we will be able to discuss dismantling the fence. Today, it helps both sides to make progress. We are doing everything to reduce the harm to the Palestinian population and to this end we have invested considerable resources," he said.
Prime Minister Verhofstadt invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit Belgium.