25 August 2002

Defense Minister’s media adviser on "Gaza and Bethlehem first"
(Communicated by the Defense Minister’s Media Adviser)

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer’s Media Adviser today (Sunday), August 25, 2002, in response to various media reports, wishes to make it clear that there is no basis to the contention that the "Gaza and Bethlehem first" understandings have been frozen. Similarly, no timetables of any kind have been determined regarding the continued implementation of the Israeli steps. It must be understood that the basis for the "Gaza and Bethlehem first" plan is step by step, i.e. progress in stages; despite the media’s natural tendency to look for immediate results, the matter cannot be evaluated according to daily progress, but only over time.

In this framework and in continuation of the commanders’ meetings that were held last week, contacts will continue this week as well in order to improve the situation, mainly in the civilian sphere.

In accordance with the understandings, Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer expects more significant security progress in the Gaza Strip.

The continuation of Israeli steps, including in regard to the IDF’s deployment in Hebron, will be considered in accordance with the Palestinians’ actions to reduce the level of terror and violence in both the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem, and according to the security situation in Hebron and elsewhere.