(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Wednesday), Sept 18, 2002:
1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon praised Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ visit to the US and defined it as successful regarding the political meetings he held, during the course of which he presented the government’s position, and from an information point-of-view.
Prime Minister Sharon noted that Foreign Minister Peres met with Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, as well as with 30 foreign ministers.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer discussed the Iraqi threat in light of the possibility of an American attack on Iraq. Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that it is for the US to decide on this matter according to its own considerations. Israel respects the US administration’s decisions and while Israel identifies with the US intention to strike at one of the key factors in the "axis of evil in the Middle East", Israel has no direct role in this conflict and has no intention of playing such a role unless the issue is forced by an Iraqi attack.
Defense Minister Ben Eliezer added that there are no grounds for panic in light of the possibility of an American attack on Iraq and any Iraqi attempt to act against Israel; similarly, descriptions of the Iraqi threat should not be exaggerated. Regardless of what the US will do to meet this threat, the State of Israel is well prepared to meet it. Israel has an efficient Home Front Command, Arrow missiles that provide it with an effective ‘umbrella’ to intercept a missile attack, and an excellent and capable air force, which can block any attempt at aerial aggression. Israel has vastly improved the ability to protect its population; no citizen will lack an effective gas mask.
Regarding the Palestinian issue, Defense Minister Ben Eliezer commented on Israel’s continued operational activities which are successful in foiling and preventing the vast majority of attempted attacks.
Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that Israel is closely monitoring actions in Lebanon to divert the waters of the Hatzbani River and said that Israel is giving an opportunity to US mediation efforts. The Defense Minister emphasized that while Israel is not interested in escalating the security situation in the north, it is not prepared to countenance regional projects in southern Lebanon which would strike a severe blow at Israel’s water supply and create a negative precedent.
ISA Director Avi Dichter briefed the Cabinet on ongoing security matters and issues connected to the state of the Palestinian Authority. In addition, the ISA Director related to the involvement of Israeli Arabs in terror attacks against the State, and attacks suspected to be carried out by Jews.
Prime Minister Sharon in relating to Jewish terror said, that he had discussed the matter with the ISA and directed them to increase their activities to locate the perpetrators whose actions are morally repugnant and likely to create a difficult situation for Israel.
Prime Minister Sharon emphasized the need to do everything possible to stop the attackers.
3. Prime Minister Sharon announced that the committee headed by the Minister of Justice to investigate the issue of parents of lone soldiers from the former Soviet Union reached the conclusion whereby they will be able, through a gradual process, to receive Israeli citizenship. Prime Minister Sharon said that this solution will be enacted in legislation.
Prime Minister Sharon directed those responsible, that until the legislation is passed, the Interior Ministry will act according to the above conclusions and parents of lone soldiers, who meet the criteria set out by the ministerial committee, will not longer be ordered to leave Israel.