Jerusalem, 30 December 2001

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, December 30, 2001:

1. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer commented on the security situation last week and noted that for the second week in a row, there has been a decrease in the level of violence and the scope of attacks.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that partial credit for this may be attributed to Israeli policy which has succeeded in bringing heavy internal and external pressure to bear on the Palestinian leadership and which has pushed it into acting on the ground. The Defense Minister also made it clear that one must not be deluded into thinking that Israel has achieved peace and quiet since the Palestinian Authority is only operating superficially and because the heart of terrorism has not been hit, and planning for deadly attacks continues. The Defense Minister commented that most of the dangerous terrorists are still at large and added that most of the infrastructure for terrorism has not been hit.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that he has directed the IDF to ease the tight closure on relatively quiet areas such as Jericho and Bethlehem and to allow Christmas celebrations to proceed as usual.

2. In response to a question from Tourism Minister Benny Elon regarding Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’s contacts with Abu Ala, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following statement:

"Israel is committed to peace and will make every effort to achieve it. In accordance with Cabinet and Government decisions, diplomatic negotiations may not be held with the PA while terrorism continues and as long as the critical steps to arrest and punish terrorists, foil terrorist attacks, and disband the terrorist organizations have not been taken. No discussion on diplomatic issues will be held – including the issue of a Palestinian state – without Cabinet discussion and approval; this is the existing policy. Contacts with PA officials – in accordance with Cabinet decisions – can be about the cessation of terrorism, violence and incitement only."

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that his mandate is to conclude a cease-fire, and if diplomatic negotiations come up, the issue will be submitted to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

3. Labor and Social Welfare Minister Shlomo Ben-Izri briefed the Cabinet on the handicapped strike. The Minister detailed the compensation the handicapped receive and commented on their demands. The Cabinet decided to establish an inter-ministerial committee headed by the Assistant to the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, and including representatives from the Labor and Social Welfare, Finance, and Health Ministries, and the National Insurance Institute, to conduct continuous negotiations with representatives of the striking handicapped.