(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this morning (Monday), 14.11.05, with US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice. The Prime Minister said at the start of the meeting: „We welcome Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a friend of Israel who has worked very hard to reach a diplomatic settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and is making great efforts to strengthen the democratization process in the Middle East. We are pleased to welcome her and I am certain that this visit will strengthen the network of bilateral relations.” US Secy. of State Rice thanked the Prime Minister and conveyed greetings from US President George Bush. She said that US President Bush and the American people admired Prime Minister Sharon’s courage and leadership in successfully implementing the Disengagement Plan. She said that she expects to continue working closely with the Prime Minister and his team on advancing toward a solution of two states living side by side in peace, without terrorism, in a more democratic manner, and in bringing peace to the entire region. Prime Minister Sharon congratulated US Secy. of State Rice on her birthday and presented her with a gift – a Bible in Hebrew and English with Jerusalem embossed in gold on the cover; she thanked him for the gift. Prime Minister Sharon briefed US Secy. of State Rice on developments regarding the Rafiah crossing and told her the issue is due to be resolved; he praised the work of quartet envoy James Wolfensohn. Dr. Rice thanked the Prime Minister for the progress and added that she hoped a deal would be signed today. The US Secy. of State said that while the US would never ask the Prime Minister to do anything that might impair Israel’s security, it was important to see how matters could be otherwise helped along. She added that while Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Abu Mazen is not doing what is expected of him, he is better than previous leaders and is certainly better than the alternative. Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that Hamas’s participation in the elections would be a serious mistake because the participation of an armed terrorist organization would only weaken Abu Mazen: „While we will not interfere in the elections we will not coordinate on them and will not allow Hamas members to either work or move about other than they do today. Hamas’s participation could lead to the end of the Roadmap, if there is a situation in which an armed terrorist organization is a political partner in the Palestinian administration. While we fully support the President’s democratization efforts, we will not help Hamas. We will not help those who murder Jews even if they participate in the elections. Nowhere in the world would they be allowed to participate in elections. Even according to the Oslo accords, they were not allowed to participate in elections.” The Prime Minister stressed that only if Hamas disarms and annuls its covenant (tinyurl.com/9fzok), which calls for the destruction of Israel, would Israel be able to assist the elections and accept Hamas’s participation in them. Prime Minister Sharon said that if Abu Mazen does not fight terrorism now, he will be less likely to do so after the elections. The Prime Minister noted that after going home last to the Shikmim farm, he heard artillery fire all night. US Secy. of State Rice said that she believes that after the PA elections, it will be easier to compel Hamas to disarm because the pressure will come from the entire international community. She said that this was what had happened in northern Ireland and Angola. She said that she respects the Israeli position and added that if Abu Mazen does not disarm Hamas, he would lose both American and international support. Dr. Rice said that the US would never hold contacts with Hamas or Islamic Jihad even if they are in the administration, adding that the US would never countenance a situation in which terrorist organizations that remain armed take part in the Palestinian administration.