(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Monday), 14 March 2005, with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenende, who has arrived in Israel for the dedication of the new Yad Vashem museum.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked his Dutch counterpart for inviting him to visit the Netherlands and apologized for having to cancel due to the political situation in Israel.  Dutch PM Balkenende reissued his invitation for Prime Minister Sharon to visit the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Sharon expressed concern over the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe and said that, “This phenomenon must be fought; education on the issue must be encouraged.”

Prime Minister Sharon expressed his deep appreciation for the Dutch role in including Hamas on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations, as well as for the Netherlands’ efforts to include Hezbollah on the list.  The Prime Minister said that Hezbollah constitutes the main danger to the stability of Abu Mazen’s rule.

Prime Minister Sharon said that while after several years, there again was a chance to advance the diplomatic process in the region, this depended on the cessation of terrorism: “No country would countenance such terrorism as is being used against us.”

Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende said that Prime Minister Sharon’s remarks regarding anti-Semitism are a daily concern of his and added that the war on anti-Semitism must be intense.  He said that education was very important in order to defeat this phenomenon.  The Dutch Prime Minister asserted that the phenomenon of extremism, mainly among certain Islamic groups, also constituted a danger to Dutch society.

Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende told Prime Minister Sharon that the impression in the Netherlands was that there is hope for Israeli-Palestinian relations: “The Netherlands supports Israel’s struggle against terrorism. We cannot imagine how the residents of Israel and the Prime Minister feel.”

Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende updated Prime Minister Sharon on his meetings in the Palestinian Authority with Chairman Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Abu Ala.

Prime Minister Sharon explained that political agreements with extremist Islamic bodies such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad could not lead to their disappearance.  The Prime Minister explained that the longer that Abu Mazen puts off dismantling the terrorist organizations, the harder it will be. The Palestinians committed themselves to doing this in the framework of the Roadmap and they must do so. The Prime Minister added that the terrorist organizations will not give up terrorism against Israel and that under the aegis of the temporary quiet, they will hold the diplomatic process hostage until they decide to explode it, as happened in 2003. “The cease-fire that the Palestinians are working towards does not mean the renunciation of the terrorism option and is no solution; therefore, we will not agree to it.”

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel has taken significant steps to ease conditions for the Palestinian population and assist the Palestinian leadership.  He said that many roadblocks have been dismantled and closures have been lifted, and added that the security establishment was ready to transfer security responsibility for two cities. The Prime Minister said that while Israel was ready to take additional steps in this regard, everything depends on the security situation and Palestinian actions against terrorism.