15 December 2002

Christmas Preparations in the City of Bethlehem
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

The IDF Spokesperson, and the Spokesperson of the Office of the President of Israel, wish to clarify that contrary to inaccurate reports and attempts to manipulate the media, there are no differences between the position presented by the President of the State of Israel to the Pope and the Secretary of State of the Vatican, and the position of the defense establishment and the IDF.

President Katsav – after conferring with relevant parties in the defense establishment – informed the Pope that if the security situation allows, the IDF will position its forces in a manner in which religious ceremonies celebrating Christmas can be held. This decision will be based upon an evaluation of the security situation.

In the event of a security alert, the IDF will not be able to re-position its forces in Bethlehem.

In any event, the IDF will do everything within its power to ease the journey of pilgrims visiting Bethlehem on Christmas.

There is no difference between the comments made by the President of the State of Israel and those made to the Israeli government by the IDF Chief of the General Staff.