Jerusalem, 17 March 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), March 17, 2002:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opened the Cabinet meeting by saying that the central objective of the government is to achieve a cease-fire and implementation of the Tenet document as soon as possible; and when we arrive at the end of the cease-fire and Tenet stage – the diplomatic negotiations will begin. Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that at this time they are dealing with only one issue, and that is a cease-fire.

Prime Minister Sharon reported to the Cabinet on the two meetings he had with US envoy General Zinni since his arrival in the country. Prime Minister Sharon said he briefed General Zinni on the events that have taken place since the end of his previous mission on January 11, 2002. Beforehand General Zinni received a very comprehensive briefing by the Defense establishment. Prime Minister Sharon said he emphasized to General Zinni that the Tanzim, on the direct instructions of the Palestinian Authority, perpetrates the vast majority of terror attacks. In addition, the Prime Minister clarified that Israel wants to reach a cease-fire, and Israel is committed to the security of its citizens.

Prime Minister Sharon stated that in the case of terror attacks taking place, Israel will be forced to respond. Progress in the process must be on a reciprocal basis, and built on the understanding that both parties must fulfill their commitments according to the Tenet document.

Prime Minister Sharon told General Zinni that Israel will refrain from various activities from the moment implementation of the Tenet process begins, but this is under the assumption that the quiet will be maintained by the Palestinians.

2. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefed the Cabinet on current security matters and noted that the arrival of General Zinni provides a certain opening of hope for a cease-fire and calm, yet the attacks and warnings of attacks continue at the same time. Alongside the terrible attacks that were perpetrated over the last week, Israel registered a high success rate of foiling attacks. The IDF completed the main portions of its offensive activities in the "A" territories, cities and refugee camps. The IDF activities were successful from a military standpoint and proved that no center of terror is immune. The IDF withdrew from most of the territory with the conclusion of activities, just as Israel had declared it would at the outset.

3. The government decided to approve Prime Minister Sharon and Finance Minister Silvan Shalom’s proposal for the Bank of Israel law.