Jerusalem, 22 December 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), December 22, 2002:

1. ISA director Avi Dichter briefed ministers on current security issues, focusing on the continuing conflict with the Palestinians. The ISA Director discussed the large number of warnings of attacks, the number of Israelis injured and the terrorist activities of all the various organizations within the Palestinian Authority. He also detailed the operations of the security services in thwarting terror attacks.

2. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on his recent visit to the US where he met with US administration leaders, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan and Jewish leaders. The Defense Minister noted that he was received with warmth and understanding regarding Israel’s security problems. The Defense Minister Mofaz also commented on both the intensive efforts by terrorist groups to perpetrate terror attacks, and the ongoing IDF operations to intercept them, in the last three weeks.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that since the beginning of November over 1,000 Palestinians have been arrested, and added that last week’s arrests certainly prevented a large number of suicide bombings in Israel.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz added that the IDF had approved plans to allow religious ceremonies to take place over the Christmas holiday in Bethlehem, wherever possible, and without endangering lives.

Defense Minister Mofaz asserted that the IDF has not ruled out the possibility that Hizbullah will attempt to attack northern Israel and added that Israel is better prepared than ever before for all eventualities that could arise in the event of a US attack on Iraq.

3. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to the evacuation of the outpost in Hebron and said that Israel is a democratic country in which illegal activities will not be tolerated.