Jerusalem, 21 April 2002

DM Ben-Eliezer meeting with US State Department team
(Communicated by the Defense Minister’s Media Adviser)

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer met on Friday, April 19, 2002, with the US State Department team, headed by Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns, Senior Adviser in the Near East Bureau Aaron Miller and Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, that was appointed to continue talks after the departure of Secretary of State Colin Powell, to discuss current issues.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer explained the IDF’s withdrawal and redeployment schedule, and Israel’s position regarding the solution to the issues of the Ramallah Mukata and Church of the Nativity.

With regard to the Jenin refugee camp, Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer clarified that the charges of massacre are despicable and unfounded, and one should be distressed by the use being made of these claims by international bodies.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer explained that a heavy battle took place in Jenin during which IDF soldiers were forced to fight among booby-trapped houses and bombfields throughout the camp, which were prepared in advance as a booby-trapped battlefield.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer emphasized that IDF forces only destroyed structures after calling a number of times for inhabitants to leave the buildings, and from which the shooting did not cease. "We could have bombed the camp by plane or by artillery and thus caused serious casualties to innocent people, but our moral values prevented us from hurting innocent people, and for this we paid a heavy price."

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer severely criticized the comments of UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, and said that he deliberately took the difficult sights of the Jenin refugee camp out of the proper context. The Jenin refugee camp had become the suicide bomber capital, and the Palestinian Authority avoided dealing with the terror infrastructure which perpetrated many attacks, in which dozens of Israelis were killed. In addition, Roed-Larsen neglected to point out that a major battle took place there in which 23 IDF soldiers and dozens of Palestinians, most of them armed and even some suicide attackers, were killed.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer told the American envoys that Israel is seeing to the provision of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population in general, and in Jenin specifically, mainly in the areas of health, food, water, etc., and is working in full cooperation with the official international organizations in order to accomplish this.