Jerusalem, 24 September 2000

PM Barak: We Are Approaching Moment of Truth in Peace Process with Palestinians
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

At the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), Sept. 24, 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared that we are approaching the moment of truth in the peace process with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Barak said that for all practical purposes, maneuvering room and the ability to be flexible have been exhausted and, therefore, we are approaching the moment of decision.

Prime Minister Barak told the Cabinet that pursuant to American and Palestinian soundings, the possibility of a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is being considered, but added that no meeting has yet been determined.

Prime Minister Barak emphasized that while various ideas are being raised in the context of the diplomatic contacts, reports regarding agreements on these issues are incorrect. He reiterated that we have made it unequivocally clear that we are opposed to the transfer of sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians or any Islamic body.

Prime Minister Barak stressed that while we would prefer to settle all disagreements and resolve all of the issues, we do not rule out the possibility of achieving a comprehensive and overall agreement on most issues while defining a mechanism and timeframe for negotiating a settlement on the very few remaining issues.

Prime Minister Barak said that it would be a mistake on our part to propose a third alternative in the form of an extended interim agreement during which we would continue to transfer assets without getting anything tangible in return. He noted that we should be wary of providing Arafat with an opportunity to avoid making the important decisions which we are all waiting for and said that we must continue to exhaust all chances of reaching a settlement which will resolve most or all of the issues, if this is possible.