Jerusalem, 4 June 2000

PM Barak’s Remarks at Cabinet Meeting
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 4.6.2000, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak made the following remarks:

"We are arranging for the United Nations and the international community to attest and define the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon to be recognized as the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425. UN personnel have already placed border stones and are now in the final stages of an exactly demarcating the international border. It is possible that we will have to make further decisions and adjustments in this context but there is no doubt that the UN’s positive recognition is very significant regarding international legitimacy and should events deteriorate into violence."

Prime Minister Barak told the ministers about the exceptional compliments he received from US President Bill Clinton regarding the decision to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon. The Prime Minister also briefed the ministers on the Lebanese government’s hesitant steps to restore normalcy to southern Lebanon and assert its authority in the area.

Regarding the negotiations with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Barak stated that they have been marked by Palestinian foot-dragging expressed both in the postponement of the discussions themselves on various pretexts and the way in which they are conducting the talks, which he described as "regression."

Prime Minister Barak explained that in his opinion there are two reasons for the Palestinians’ conduct: "One is tactical – they want to divert opinion from the scandalous events of May 15, when armed men belonging to the Palestinian police, its intelligence bodies and the Fatah youth organizations opened fire at IDF soldiers. The second is strategic – they want to consider the possibility of proceeding directly to the third phase without having to go through the framework agreement."

Prime Minister Barak said that although the Palestinian Authority has indeed detained several of those who opened fire and has even taken significant steps, it has still not undertaken all necessary measures in order to assure that such events do not recur. The Prime Minister added that there is no basis to the Palestinians’ claims on the prisoners and funds issues, two issues in which we have not only met all of our commitments but even gone beyond them. He noted that Israel has released more than 100 prisoners beyond the previous government’s commitment and stressed that the delay in transferring the funds is due to the Palestinians’ footdragging.

Prime Minister Barak emphasized that the negotiations on substantive issues are still at an early stage and that in any case, and that reports that Israel has offered the Palestinians 92% of the territories, that Israel is prepared to either evacuate the rest or leave 50,000 settlers under Palestinian control, or that Israel has agreed to the entry of 300,000 refugees into the State of Israel have no basis in reality.

Prime Minister Barak stated that he has instructed the negotiating teams not to hold any discussions on Jerusalem at this stage and that according to the Camp David and Oslo accords, the Palestinians will be able to raise the issue in the discussions on the permanent settlement.

Prime Minister Barak expressed his appreciation and gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the unrelenting efforts – which began even before his election as President – which led to the release of Adi Sharon who had been held as a hostage in Chechnya, pointing out that President Putin has proven his determination to take risks in the struggle against terrorism.

Prime Minister Barak briefed the ministers on the state of the economy, according to data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, that shows an upswing in business sector and exports growth since the government was established. The Prime Minister said there is much hard work ahead and added that it is too early to celebrate even though the data shows preliminary signs of a drop in unemployment. "Since the current government took office, more than 70,000 jobs have been created. This means that we are meeting our commitment to create 300,000 jobs in four years."

Regarding the Ben-Bassat tax reform recommendations, Prime Minister Barak said that in 50 years, no previous government has dared to tax capital and thereby increase the take-home pay of all workers. The current government dares to take NIS 8 billion annually from the top 0.7% and transfer it to the working public, which is the backbone of the economy and society. The Prime Minister called upon Histadrut Chairman MK Amir Peretz and the Histadrut leadership to facilitate dialogue and added that, "It is not fitting that the Histadrut take extreme measures before thorough and patient dialogue."

On the issue of incitement, Prime Minister Barak said that because he deeply respects the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria and many of the people engaged therein, he is convinced that they understand that important historical processes cannot be stopped by violent acts.

Prime Minister Barak said, "The murder of Yitzhak Rabin was a human and national tragedy, but it could not stop the peace process. This is a flawed grasp of reality. The repercussions of any political assassination would boomerang at those fighting for the Greater Land of Israel. If there is anything that deviates from the legitimacy of the settlers’ struggle, it is acts such as these."