(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), June 15, 2003:
1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that following the Aqaba summit, there were three days of quiet followed by a harsh wave of terror, the aim of which was to murder and injure Jews, and to bring about the failure of the diplomatic process.
Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that we will stand by our decisions and statements. We have said that Israel will act severely against terror organizations and this is what we have done.
The Prime Minister pointed to the change in the US position, and explained that the US understands that terror will cause the political process – which is seen as crucial – to fail. The Prime Minister also explained that the intensity of Israeli operations has led to heavy US pressure on the Palestinians and to serious concerns in Hamas itself.
Prime Minister Sharon noted that Israel would welcome a ceasefire, should one be attained. Provided that Israel is not attacked, we will not retaliate except for essential operations in self-defense, such as in the case of a "ticking bomb."
At the same time, this situation does not absolve the Palestinian Authority from its basic responsibility to ensure security on its territory and to fight terror.
It must be made clear that all arrangements being considered are territorial – defined responsibility in a defined area. Should there be terror activity in an area defined as being under their responsibility, we retain the right to act in those areas.
Moreover, as long as the Palestinians refuse to take full responsibility and act accordingly to prevent terror, as opposed to paying mere lip service, Israel will continue to act.
Prime Minister Sharon clarified that Israel has a major interest in the diplomatic process, that this has been stated many times in the past and that his opinion on this matter has not changed. However, the Prime Minister is concerned – along with all Israeli citizens – over recent terror attacks.
The Prime Minister said that we must understand that these are the labor pains of entering a process, it is a complicated and intricate matter, and therefore everything must be received with patience, and we must see how matters develop; however, as long as terror continues, we have no choice but to act. Prime Minister Sharon added that he is prepared to make painful concessions in return for true peace, but is not willing to make any compromises on security matters.
OC Intelligence Major-General Ze’evi Farkash briefed ministers on the Palestinian situation and discussed events since the Aqaba summit until today.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on the series of terror attacks perpetrated over the past week, which resulted in the deaths of 24 Israelis and dozens more injured. The Defense Minister said that this wave of terror is an attempt by Hamas and other terrorist organizations to wreck the diplomatic process.
Defense Minister Mofaz said that Israel has acted, and will continue to act, in the struggle against terror, without compromise. The Defense Minister added that since there is no difference between Al-Qaeda and Hamas, our war against this organization is just.
The Defense Minister emphasized that the terror attacks perpetrated by Hamas were planned without any connection to the attempt to eliminate Rantisi and added that Hamas began to commit premeditated atrocities immediately after the Aqaba summit.
Defense Minister Mofaz added that the US administration is insistent in its pressure on the Palestinian Authority to take responsibility and begin working against the terrorist organizations. The Defense Minister stressed that in the event the Palestinian Authority fails to do so, Israel will act accordingly. Defense Minister Mofaz commented that the Palestinian Authority has the power to act differently and without delay.
Defense Minister Mofaz said that transferring responsibility to the Palestinian Authority would be carried out within clear pre-defined borders, where it will be possible to monitor and assess their operations. Talks on transferring such responsibility began last night in a meeting between Major-General Amos Gilad, senior ISA officials and Muhammad Dahlan, and added that the process of transferring such responsibility to the Palestinians would be long, difficult and accompanied with crises. Security is the central anchor for the continuation of this process.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on the results of his visit to Russia last week, during which he met with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, Russian Minister for Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev, the Federation Chairman and representatives of the local Jewish community.
Foreign Minister Shalom referred to messages he gave to the Russians regarding to Israel’s desire to enhance its relations with Russia in all spheres, and the important role Russia has to play in advancing the peace process between Israel and the Arabs. Foreign Minister Shalom impressed on Minister Ivanov the need for joint international action to ensure that Iran does not succeed in acquiring the ability to develop nuclear weapons.
Foreign Minister Shalom reported on his conversation with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. Foreign Minister Shalom clarified Israel’s position in regard to recent terror attacks and the need to press the Palestinians to fulfill their obligations in the campaign against terror.
Foreign Minister Shalom added that a team of US inspectors would arrive in the area to oversee the implementation of the road map. The team will remain in Israel for 10 days in order to study the area and various other issues.