(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met this evening (Wednesday), 25 January 2006, with US Senator Joseph Biden Jr. (D-DE), the ranking Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has arrived in Israel on the occasion of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elections.

US Sen. Biden complimented Acting Prime Minister Olmert on the latter’s speech yesterday to the Herzliya Conference  yesterday and thanked him for allowing the elections to proceed in eastern Jerusalem. The Acting Prime Minister replied that Israel decided to enable the elections to be held in a proper fashion according to democratic norms.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert said that he would be happy to discuss the Roadmap with PA Chairman Abu Mazen, adding that the Palestinian leader must meet his commitments to disband the terrorist organizations, especially Hamas.The Acting Prime Minister said that negotiations must be based on trust and asked how it was possible to trust a system in which Hamas people were members? He recalled that as mayor of Jerusalem he has exposed to terrorism more than anyone and said that those scenes would never leave him.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel could not accept a situation in which Hamas – in its current format as a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel – would be part of the PA and would not disarm. He said: “I will not negotiate with a government that does not meet its most basic obligations – to fight terrorism. We are prepared to assist the Palestinians and Abu Mazen very much but they must meet their commitments.”

US Senator Biden said that the international community, including the Europeans, was united in its view that now, after the disengagement, the time had come for the Palestinians to act because Israel proved with the disengagement the seriousness of its intentions to advance the diplomatic process.

The two men also discussed Iran’s efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons.