(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke this afternoon (Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006) with US President George W. Bush, who telephoned and said: "I wanted to tell you that our hearts are with Ariel Sharon, his family, his friends and the entire Israeli people.  We know that this is a difficult time for you and I will do whatever I can to help."  The US president added that he appreciates the acting prime minister’s responsibility and courage in taking the position upon himself.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert thanked President Bush for both the call and his friendship with Prime Minister Sharon, and added that their relationship is very important for Israel.

Olmert said that the Israeli people appreciates Bush’s determination to fight terrorism and not compromise with it.  The president replied there can be no differentiation between kinds of terrorism and said that there can be no peace with terrorist organizations; he emphasized that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has to prove that it is able to act against terrorism and added that the US is working to establish democratic institutions in the PA that will advance peace and not terrorism.  Bush said that this is his position and that he would not change it.  He said that he intends to continue implementing his and Sharon’s joint vision of advancing the peace process in the region.

Olmert said that, while he would do everything in his power to advance this vision, it is important that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas take steps against terrorism and disband the terrorist organizations, because otherwise there can be no progress with an administration in which there are terrorist organizations as members. 

President Bush said that Hamas must change its policy toward Israel and recognize its right to exist.  He added that reforming the Palestinian security services is important and noted that, to this end, he has dispatched General Keith Dayton in order to assist the Palestinians.

At the end of their conversation, President Bush asked to convey to Omri and Gilad Sharon that he esteems their father very highly and that he has a partner in the US who not only esteems him very highly but is also concerned for his welfare. Bush said it is very important that Sharon recover and know that his friend in the US is thinking about him and is concerned for him.