Jerusalem, 10 March 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), March 10, 2002:

A. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that we have again endured a day of many difficult losses. At the same time, the IDF, Israel Police and the security services have taken vigorous and wide-ranging action and have recently made outstanding efforts. There are many warnings and Israel is, in effect, at war and this must be understood. The Israeli people must remain united and steadfast and do all that is necessary to overcome the waves of terror.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he has reached the conclusion that due to the scope of the terror and its level, and given Israel’s broad actions against terror, there was no possibility in the current situation of achieving a number of days of absolute quiet. Israel tried this but the attempt was foiled and not by it. The Prime Minister made it clear that the issue of a cease-fire is the main goal which we must strive for. Therefore, over the weekend, he informed the US that he was willing to proceed directly to a discussion of the Tenet plan. "We want to make every effort to reach a cease-fire and we will make every effort to reach a cease-fire. However, we will continue the stepped-up efforts on our part against the infrastructure of terror. This activity continues and it will continue as long as the terror does," the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Sharon made it clear that when Israel comes to discuss a political settlement, there will have to be quiet because it is impossible to conduct negotiations on a political settlement under fire.

Prime Minister Sharon offered the government’s condolences to the families which have lost loved ones and its wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefed the Cabinet on current security matters and said that Israel is in the midst of a wave of sharp escalation. He referred to the terrorist attacks which occurred during the past week and the injuries that both IDF soldiers and civilians have suffered as a result. The Defense Minister said that alongside the terrorist attacks and their victims, the security establishment foiled many attacks this past week which could have caused a high number of casualties. The Tanzim – which has been responsible for most of the recent attacks and the murder of many Israelis – stands at the center of the campaign of terror.

Defense Minister Eliezer commented on the IDF actions in the refugee camps. He said that after the IDF had completed its actions in the Balata and Jenin refugee camps, it operated this week in Tulkarm and the Mt. Gilo area and in the al-Aida refugee camp. The IDF’s taking control of Tulkarm was very successful. The Defense Minister noted that hundreds of men were taken captive, fugitives were arrested, and war materiel laboratories and bombs were discovered, and added that 14 Kassam rockets, four launchers and approximately 40 Kassam warheads were seized, along with solid fuel and other war materiel.

In the Bethlehem region, the IDF took control of Beit Jala, al-Khader and the al-Aida refugee camp, and is still active there.

Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz briefed the Cabinet on last week’s military actions.

B. The government decided to assist and encourage socio-economic activity in downtown Jerusalem as follows:

The Interior Ministry will increase the balancing grant to Jerusalem for 2002 by NIS 15 million with the goal of providing municipal rate discounts to merchants and workplaces in downtown Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality – backed by the Finance Ministry – will add NIS 10 million to the financing of the aforementioned discounts. The municipal rate discount will be up to 50% of the rate due in 2002. The Jerusalem Municipality will recommend to the Interior Minister the criteria for the discounts. The discount will be given in the first half of 2002. In June 2002, the need for continuing granting discounts will be reexamined.

NIS 20 million – from the Industry and Trade, and Construction and Housing Ministry budgets – will be allocated towards renovations in the city center.

NIS 15 million – from the Tourism Ministry budget – will be allocated for marketing and events.

NIS 15 million – from the Construction and Housing Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality (backed by the Finance Ministry) budgets – will be allocated to completing the development of the Mahane Yehuda market.

The Jerusalem Municipality will be ready to begin implementation of the aforementioned projects by Independence Day.

NIS 15 million – from the Tourism Ministry budget – will be allocated towards encouraging occupancy in city hotels; all government ministries and companies will hold all 2002 conferences and seminars in Jerusalem.

The Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem Affairs will consider additional steps to strengthen the city via the development of infrastructure in the city center and encouraging the purchase of apartments in the city.

Downtown Jerusalem extends approximately 500 meters from the Russian Compound to the Mahane Yehuda market and approximately 400 meters from Beit Yisrael Street to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall. Eleven terrorist attacks – in which 39 people were killed and over 500 were wounded – have taken place in this area in the past six months. In the wake of these attacks, there has been an unprecedented nadir in economic activity in the city center, including hotel occupancy.

Granting municipal rate discounts to downtown merchants, renovating the area, and marketing activities and events, will encourage the public to return to the Jerusalem city center and boost hotel occupancy.