(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At its weekly meeting today (Sunday), 25.3.2001:
1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon briefed the Cabinet on his trip to the US. He made it clear that the objectives of his visit were achieved and that in his meetings with US President George W. Bush, senior administration officials and members of Congress, he had clarified Israel’s positions on the main issues – issues on which there was a large degree of understanding and agreement in the US: the importance of regional stability, and terrorism and the danger it poses to regional stability.
During his US meetings, Prime Minister Sharon emphasized the dangers posed by the striving of radical elements in the region – mainly Iraq and Iran – to arm themselves with non-conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.
Regarding the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Sharon stressed the principle that disputes be settled by peaceful means and that violence and terrorism be abandoned. In this context, the Prime Minister referred to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s letter to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of September 9, 1993 in which he points out that the PLO rejects the use of terrorism and other forms of violence, and accepts upon himself the responsibility for the actions of his people in order to uphold this obligation and punish those who break the law.
Prime Minister Sharon made it clear that while Israel is committed to peace, contacts for peace will take place without the pressure of terrorism and violence. The Prime Minister similarly made it clear to his American interlocutors that his government strives to distinguish between dealing with terrorist elements and easing restrictions on populations that are not involved with terrorism.
During his trip, Prime Minister Sharon enhanced his personal relationship with US President Bush, senior administration officials, leading members of Congress and American Jewish community leaders.
Israeli Ambassador to the US David Ivri will coordinate the bilateral strategic cooperation dialogue. The US’s commitment to Israel and its security remains strong and is based on shared interests and values.
Prime Minister Sharon expressed his opposition to an international observer force as part of Israel’s opposition to the internationalization of the conflict and in accordance with the principle that there can be no reward for violence.
Prime Minister Sharon noted that he had raised the issue of Israel’s POWs and MIAs with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, both of whom promised to help.
Prime Minister Sharon clarified the importance of relations with Egypt and Egypt’s role vis-a-vis regional peace, and stressed that Israel is interested in maintaining the peace and improving relations with Egypt. The Prime Minister noted that while in the US, he held no discussions on the issue of American aid to Egypt.
2. Israel Police Inspector-General Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki briefed the Cabinet on issues having to do with domestic security and public order ahead of "Land Day" on Friday, March 30, 2001, including police deployment. He expressed the hope that the expected "Land Day" events will be moderate, non-violent and reasonable in scope.
Inspector-General Aharonishki briefed the Cabinet on: 1) the neutralization of a car-bomb in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood last Wednesday, 2) car-bombs in Jerusalem since November 2000 and 3) the murder of Kibbutz Manara’s security coordinator.
Inspector-General Aharonishki devoted a considerable portion of his briefing to the latest violent crime wave in Israel. On this issue, Prime Minister Sharon stated that violence in Israeli society – in the family, among young people and in schools – is a national blight and a harsh and disturbing social phenomenon. The Cabinet approved the Prime Minister’s proposal to form a ministerial committee on the struggle against violence, to be headed by Minister Shmuel Avital. The committee will – inter alia – monitor the scope and characteristics of violence and crime, prepare a comprehensive national plan on the struggle against all aspects of violence, and coordinate among the various law enforcement bodies, the courts, schools and social services on the issue. The committee will also consider the need for changes in legislation and in the implementation of existing legislation in order to step up the struggle against violence and crime.
3. The Cabinet approved the appointments of Yitzhak Hazan and Avigdor Maoz as directors-general of the Labor and Social Welfare, and Construction and Housing ministries, respectively.
4. The Cabinet approved the formation of a ministerial committee on foreign service appointments to be chaired by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
5. The Cabinet decided to rescind its September 2000 decision on the disbanding of the Religious Affairs Ministry.