Upon taking office, FM Shalom set himself two principal goals: strengthening ties with the Arab world and strengthening ties with Europe.
The following is a summary of the farewell press conference held on Sunday, January 15, 2006, by outgoing Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
Upon taking office, Foreign Minister Shalom said that he had set himself two principal goals beyond the preservation of excellent relations with the United States (its Congress, public diplomacy, Jewish community, State Department, and economic issues):
- strengthening ties with the Arab world and breaking the Gordian knot between progress on the Palestinian issue and progress with normalization and
- strengthening ties with Europe with all that pertains to the Israeli economy as well as the nature of Europe’s relations to the political process and its contribution to furthering it.
During his three years in office, from March 2003 to January 2006, and by means of a strategy of activism and taking the initiative, Israel attained many achievements in both these spheres and in additional areas, he noted, particularly in the improvement of its international position in the United Nations and the unprecedented resolution establishing a worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Israel’s international relations and diplomacy have made a central contribution to its security, Shalom said. During the past three years, Israeli diplomacy has contributed to many successes in the struggle against terrorism and in counterefforts against other threats, particularly the Iranian nuclear program and the inclusion of Hamas in the European list of terrorist organizations.
During his entire term of office, the foreign minister said he acted in accordance with the principle that it is necessary to act in parallel to isolate and weaken the extremists in our region, who seek to perpetuate the Israeli-Arab conflict and to harm the rights of Israel and the lives of its citizens, and to strengthen the moderates who are interested in building – together with Israel – a safe and flourishing Middle East for all its inhabitants.
To this end, bilateral relations with Egypt were marked by: a renewal of coordination, including the return of the Egyptian ambassador after a five-year absence; the signing of economic agreements, particularly ones for the supply of natural gas and the creation of Qualified Industrial Zones; progress in the struggle against anti-Semitism in the Egyptian press; and the release of prisoner Azzam Azzam.
Relations were also strengthened with Jordan, which also returned its ambassador after a five-year absence, and involved a closening of economic ties and political coordination.
Contact was maintained with leaders of the Arab world, and the minister held public meetings with the foreign ministers of Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, Indonesia, and others. Commercial relations were advanced with these countries and official visits were made to Tunisia and Morocco, with the first official visit in many years to Morocco. Trade with Arab countries increased by 8.3 percent. Relations with Turkey were also strengthened.
In the war against terrorism, Israeli diplomacy succeeded in having Hamas placed on the European list of terrorist organizations (and on similar lists in Canada, the United States, Australia, and Japan). It also advanced the struggle against Hizbullah, Shalom said.
Israel’s efforts placed Iran’s nuclear program on the international agenda and have brought them to the threshold of sanctions being considered by the UN, he added.
In advancing relations with Europe, Israel upgraded its investment position by the signing of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and furthered a more balanced political approach in the integration of European countries in the peace process.
At the United Nations, Israel achieved: the landmark resolution creating a worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day; the holding of a special General Assembly session on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps; the election of a deputy president of the assembly; the removal of a number of anti-Israel resolutions; the unprecedented cooperation of the UN Secretariat and secretary-general; and the acceptance of Israel’s Red Magen David symbol.