(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), June 22, 2003:
1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thanked the security forces for last night’s successful and very important action in Hebron. This was a vital action designed to provide security for Israel’s citizens.
Prime Minister Sharon noted that Israel has proposed to – and even demanded from – the Palestinians that they accept the responsibility to carry out serious counter-terrorist actions against the terrorist organizations, the terrorists and their infrastructure. The Palestinians must accept responsibility and act against terror. If this is not done and they do not accept the responsibility or do not act with due seriousness in these places, we will continue with our actions in order to provide security to Israel’s citizens.
Prime Minister Sharon briefed the cabinet on his meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday. The Prime Minister thanked the Secretary of State for his personal involvement in the diplomatic process and for the American administration’s efforts to advance peace in the region.
The Prime Minister added that Israel would do everything in its power to assist US special envoy Ambassador John Wolf in his mission in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Sharon also said that he told Secretary of State Powell that Israel would not participate in negotiations under fire, and that as long as terror, violence and incitement continue in the area, it would be impossible to advance the diplomatic process.
The Prime Minister said that Israel is ready to transfer security responsibility to the Palestinians in any designated area. The Israeli position is that in all places where the Palestinians assume security responsibility, they will be responsible for stopping violence and carrying out comprehensive counter-terrorist operations in order to prevent attacks. In areas where the Palestinians do not take responsibility, they will be fully obligated to make every effort to prevent terror attacks. In the event that the Palestinians do not carry out their responsibilities satisfactorily, Israel will be forced to operate in those areas as it sees fit.
Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that Israel would not agree to any settlement between the Palestinian Authority and terror organizations that does not include dismantling the infrastructure of, and disarming, the latter.
A ceasefire can only be a short and rapid stage as part of the overall process and it will be unacceptable if it comes instead of a real war against terror. The process must include the dismantling and disarming of the terror organizations as well as the stopping of all incitement.
The Prime Minister highlighted the matter of incitement in his meeting with the US Secretary of State and said that it must be ended immediately and completely, in every place it is found. Stopping incitement is in no way connected to responsibility over security and can take place without delay.
US Secretary of State, Colin Powell said that he sees eye to eye with Prime Minister Sharon on these matters and repeated the US’s deep commitment to Israel’s security, and added that this is not a matter on which there can be compromise. The US Secretary of State agreed that all violence must end and that the Palestinians must take real steps against terror and violence.
The meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere as befits the deep understanding that exists between Israel and the US.
Prime Minister Sharon expressed his commitment to the political process and his hope that it would result in a settlement and peace.
2. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on ongoing security matters, noted that although more than two weeks have passed since the Aqaba summit, efforts to perpetrate terror attacks against Israel continue without respite, and added that the Palestinian Authority is demonstrating a total lack of responsibility on the matter.
Defense Minister Mofaz said that while Israel has entered into a dialogue with the Palestinian Authority on security matters, the other side has refused to accept security responsibilities, citing various grounds for shirking its commitments. The Defense Minister understood that the Palestinian Authority prefers to reach a ceasefire agreement with Hamas before accepting any kind of security responsibilities.
Defense Minister Mofaz stated that Israel is not interested in the Palestinian Authority’s internal considerations, and that it is its responsibility to fight terror. The Defense Minister added that if the Palestinian Authority refuses to recognize the fact that terror is continuing and that it must fight it, Israel would be forced to do so.
The Defense Minister added that the Palestinian Authority must also deal with external sources which support and finance terror.
Defense Minister Mofaz discussed recent developments regarding the Iranian project to create nuclear weapons.
Defense Minister Mofaz reported on his visit to the Paris air show and noted IAI’s achievements.
3. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein briefed ministers on his participation in the international conference on anti-Semitism, which recently took place in Vienna.
4. The government made it clear that it attributes great importance to the assistance given to former SLA soldiers, in their absorption and integration into Israeli society. Former SLA soldiers will be entitled to financial, housing and retraining assistance.