Jerusalem, July 27, 2003

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), July 27, 2003:

1. The Cabinet noted that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is leaving today for the US, to meet with President Bush and other US administration senior officials. Prime Minister Sharon will return to Israel on Thursday, July 31, 2003. Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Ehud Olmert will serve as Acting Prime Minister in Prime Minister Sharon’s absence.

2. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, ISA Director Avi Dichter, OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevy Farkash and other senior officials briefed ministers on the release of Palestinian prisoners in light of the criteria set by the government on July 6, 2003, and in regard to the lack of clarity in the application of the criteria. Defense Minister Mofaz said that the matter should have been brought before the government in order to clarify certain issues. He added that Israel has no intention of changing the basic criteria, which include the condition that a prisoner must not have "blood on his hands" according to the widest definition of the term as it was presented by ISA Director Dichter.

It was proposed to the government that within the framework of the criteria that were approved, the definition "blood on their hands" include those who were involved in abductions or anyone who was systematically involved in manufacturing and/or smuggling weapons. Therefore, there will be no impediment to releasing detainees or prisoners, even from those belonging to Islamic and rejectionist organizations, regardless of their age; all considerations for release will be according to ISA security criteria, in accordance with obligatory judicial proceedings and with the approval of the Ministerial Committee on the Release of Palestinian Prisoners.

The Cabinet decided, in continuation of its July 6, 2003 decision, to approve the list of criteria on the release of Palestinian prisoners, as it was submitted by the ISA today.

3. Attorney General Eliyakim Rubinstein informed the cabinet of his intention to step down on January 15, 2004.