Jerusalem, 25 June 2001

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer Addresses Jewish Agency Assembly
(Communicated by the Defense Minister’s Media Adviser)

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer today (Monday), June 25, 2001, in Jerusalem, addressed hundreds of world Jewish leaders at the Jewish Agency for Israel ) 2001 Assembly.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that a coalition of Palestinian, Shi’ite and Bin Laden-affiliated terrorist organizations has been created recently to act against Israeli, American and European targets. The Defense Minister added that Osama Bin Laden is trying to infiltrate Israel and, to this end, is using local residents and emissaries.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that the true enemy in the Middle East is Islamic fundamentalism which has mainly grown in Iran, and which now has missiles that can hit almost all of Israel, as well as parts of Europe. He noted that Iran is striving to acquire a nuclear capability and constitutes the main strategic threat to the free western world.

Regarding the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Beirut, Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that while the redeployment is a positive step, it is not clear whether it was a strategic step; he added that it seems that it was designed to present Bashar Assad in a positive light ahead of his trip to Europe.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer asserted that Israel has the natural right to defend itself and added that it will do so with all means at its disposal.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer called for the building-up of Jewish communities in the Negev and the Galilee.