Jerusalem, 21 April 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), April 21, 2002:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opened the Cabinet meeting by congratulating all the components of the security establishment – the IDF, ISA, Israel Police and all who took part in operations in the framework of Operation Defensive Shield.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked them upon the conclusion of this stage of the operation stating that Israel achieved great accomplishments in the framework of Operation Defensive Shield.

2. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer gave a security briefing during the course of which he announced the arrest of the Ramallah Tanzim commander. Furthermore, the Defense Minister reported that three and a half weeks after the IDF set out on Operation Defensive Shield, it completed its withdrawal from the cities, and deployment around them, this morning. The IDF continues to surround the Mukata in Ramallah, and continues to remain in Bethlehem.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also stated on an operational level, the IDF actions achieved important accomplishments in everything relating to damaging the terror infrastructure. The Defense Minister related to two big achievements of the past week, the arrest of Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and the arrest of Hussan Badran.

3. Prime Minister Sharon raised the issue of the "fact finding mission" into the events in the Jenin refugee camp decided upon by the UN Security Council. The Prime Minister related to the other options available to Israel, as opposed to this agreement, and noted, that the decision that was made was the least objectionable.

4. Prime Minister Sharon clarified that a number of ministers have approached him on the issue of the appointment of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, and asked to appeal the decision of the ministerial committee on the issue or to hold a discussion on the subject in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister stated that after considering the matter, which is indeed multi-faceted, he decided to honor the ministers’ request to hold a discussion on the subject in a wider forum. Therefore, the Cabinet decided, based on the Prime Minister’s comments, to suspend the decision of the Ministerial Committee on the issue of choosing a Greek Orthodox Patriarch of April 15, 2002 until the convening of the said discussion. In accordance with this decision, the "Letter of Recognition" will not be granted at this time.

5. In accordance with the Internal Security Agency Law 2002, the Cabinet appointed a Ministerial Committee for ISA matters. The committee is comprised of:

The Prime Minister – Chairman
The Defense Minister
The Justice Minister
The Public Security Minister
Minister Dan Meridor.

The ministerial committee will act on behalf of the government on all issues required by the Internal Security Agency Law.

The Cabinet decided to apply clause 44 (Secrecy) of Basic Law: The Government on the deliberations of the committee.