Jerusalem, 5 April 2002

DM Ben-Eliezer meets EU Envoy Solana & Spanish FM Pique
(Communicated by the Defense Minister’s Media Adviser)

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer met yesterday (Thursday), April 4, 2002 with European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Dr. Javier Solana and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said that Israel is under attack by a "coalition of terrorist organizations" in both the Palestinian arena as well as the Lebanese. Syria has released the reins on Hizbullah which has led to their actions. Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer asked the Europeans to intervene with the Syrian leader in order to make clear the significance of the policy he is following of "playing with fire".

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer said in regard to the Palestinian issue that Arafat thinks that he is completely safe and he has nothing to lose, and he therefore continues to support terror operations. Hence, the government decided to isolate him. It is very important that the messages put out by world leaders do not strengthen his belief. The objective of the operation, therefore, is to deal with the main concentrations of terror thereby foiling attacks and providing a higher level of security for Israel’s citizens.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer emphasized that there is no military solution to the Palestinian issue, and although he supports the Saudi initiative in principle, there is currently no partner for the diplomatic process with Arafat having rejected even US envoy Zinni’s initiative.

At the request of the Europeans, Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer authorized the release of all foreign citizens who are not suspected of involvement in terror, and who are trapped in holy sites in which the terrorists have holed up in the Bethlehem area. The Defense Minister promised that the IDF will not damage the Church of the Nativity or any other holy site, but the Palestinians are making cynical use of these sites.