Jerusalem, 18 August 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), August 18, 2002:

1. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon briefed ministers on last week’s security events and noted that while it was possible to discern a certain decline in the scope of actual attacks, there was no similar decline in the scope and level of warnings regarding terrorist organizations’ intentions to perpetrate new and harsh attacks inside the State of Israel and against soldiers and civilians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Defense Minister emphasized that, as far as he is concerned, there is no distinction between terrorism in Israel and against soldiers and civilians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, nor will there be; he added that the security establishment would operate uniformly to foil terror.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that the aforementioned decline in the scope of attacks was to be attributed to the counter-terrorism efforts of the IDF and the security services. Emphasis was also placed last week on actions in the humanitarian and economic spheres.

Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Ya’alon referred to the death of Duvdevan soldier Ehud Shneur at the Adam training facility.

2. The Cabinet concluded the political discussion that it began last week. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon summarized it as follows:

  1. The Government of Israel’s objective is to reach a political settlement; Israel aspires to a political process that will lead to a true peace.

    Israel insists on the following conditions for a genuine process:

    i. A halt to terror, violence and incitement.
    ii. Genuine security, economic and legal reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

    In order to reach peace – the Prime Minister said, citing US President George Bush – a different Palestinian leadership, one that is not stained by terror, is necessary. The Government of Israel will not give in on these issues.

  2. Regarding humanitarian issues related to the plight of the Palestinian civilian population, the latter must be assisted in every way possible.
  3. When Israel proceeds to the political process, it will insist on a settlement in stages that will enable oversight and progress according to the degree to which the parties’ commitments are being upheld and carried out, and according to developments in relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
  4. There will be no compromises in the struggle against terror. Israel is vigorously conducting the struggle beginning with actions to interrupt the smuggling of weapons and munitions; actions against terrorist leaders; the presence in the Palestinian cities; and, first and foremost, reliance upon our forces.
  5. The unfreezing of 10% of the Palestinian VAT funds being held back by Israel. The continued gradual unfreezing of funds also depends on Palestinian moves and the uses to which the funds are put.
  6. Regarding unity, unity has been, and remains, supremely important to the success of Israel’s stand in the political and diplomatic struggle.

    Differences of opinion regarding the permanent settlements are irrelevant today and there is neither need nor reason to "sharpen" them at this stage due to political or other considerations.

    Prime Minister Sharon referred to recent headlines to the effect that Israel is – as it were – "pushing" the US to bring forward the attack on Iraq and that Israel has supposedly advised the US to attack as soon as possible, and made it unequivocally clear that that Israel supports the US in its just war against international terror, with this goal being shared by the US, Israel and every other country based on the values of freedom, liberty and democracy. The Prime Minister expressed both his and Israel’s esteem of US President George Bush’s leadership. But the Prime Minister also made it clear that Israel has not "advised" the US on what to do and has not passed on messages designed to either bring forward or postpone the decision on the continuation of US steps in this war. The decision regarding the timing of continued steps is the US’s alone. Naturally, Israel and the US maintain strategic coordination and close cooperation. In the framework of this cooperation, Israel will know in advance of the US’s intentions in order to be prepared for any future possibility.

3. The Cabinet decided on a number of steps designed to deal with illegal foreign workers, with the goal of integrating Israelis in the labor market. To this end, the Cabinet has directed that at least 50,000 illegal foreign workers leave by the end of December 2003.

4. The Cabinet approved the appointments of Oded Eran as Ambassador to the European Union, Shlomo Avital as Ambassador to Senegal (and non-resident Ambassador to Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone), and Noam Katz as Ambassador to Nigeria.