(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), May 4, 2003:
1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that there was a significant rise in the efforts of the terror organizations to perpetrate attacks following the appointment of Abu-Mazen’s government, in an attempt to hinder the process, which is intended to bring about a change in the current situation. The most noticeable expression of this desire is the suicide attack which took place in a Tel Aviv pub at the end of April, in which three civilians were murdered and over 60 were injured.
Defense Minister Mofaz said that this attack also sends a message to Abu-Mazen, as it was perpetrated on the day his government was established. The defense establishment is investigating the attack and will draw all necessary conclusions arising from it. The Defense Minister emphasized that despite this attack, Israel was successful in thwarting a series of terror attacks this week.
In relation to the death of British cameraman, James Miller, Defense Minister Mofaz stated that there had been an exchange of fire in the area, and that it is still unclear as to how he was killed.
Defense Minister Mofaz commented that the establishment of Abu-Mazen’s government represents a new reality for Israel where there are both opportunities and dangers. In light of this, Israel is giving a chance for change on the Palestinian side, but, at the same time, Israel is not willing to give up on its own security and will not agree to a situation where there is a ceasefire, which is not supported by a battle against terror. As long as Israel is subject to violence, and does not see Palestinian actions against terror, Israel will have no choice but to continue and act to thwart and prevent terror as is done today.
The Defense Minister added that instead of the foreign liaison department in the Defense Ministry, a diplomatic-security branch will be opened, which will responsible for strategic-political-defensive issues, for defense outlook, for foreign security liaison and for the defensive position in diplomatic negotiations. The Defense Minister appointed Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad as head of the branch, which he will begin when he completes his present position and is released from IDF service.
Defense Minister Mofaz also discussed the contacts between Syria and the US, and Iran’s efforts to influence Iraq’s leadership and identity following the war.
2. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on ongoing political matters, on the ‘road map,’ which was presented to Israel and the Palestinians and on US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Israel, a visit which should publicly demonstrate President Bush’s commitment to cooperation with Israel and the Palestinians, in order to advance the peace process. The Foreign Minister commented that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Israel comes with the background of the impressive US victory in Iraq, which according to the US has changed the geo-strategic conditions in the Middle East, US efforts in Damascus, the approval of Abu-Mazen’s government and the presentation of the ‘road map.’
The Foreign Minister added that following the murderous attack in Tel Aviv last week, the British Foreign Minister called him and expressed, in his name and in the name of the British government, his condolences and deep shock at the fact that two British citizens had perpetrated the attack. Foreign Minister Shalom requested that all those who were involved in the attack, and in the creation of the atmosphere for the attack should be brought to trial in the UK. In addition, the Foreign Minister asked that incitement against Israel, and against Jews by extreme groups in British Muslim communities be dealt with.
Foreign Minister Shalom discussed his meeting with US Congressman Tom Lantos, who arrived in Israel following his visit to Damascus where he met the Syrian President, and to relations with the Palestinian Authority.
3. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Prime Minister, the Director of the Prime Minister’s Bureau and ministers for their support in the economic plan and in the Finance Minister.
Finance Minister Netanyahu, Finance Ministry General Director and the Finance Ministry budget manager briefed ministers on the latest talks with the Histadrut, on efforts to end the strike, and on decisions taken by the government on the issue of improving the economy. The Finance Minister discussed sanctions currently taking place in government offices, in airports and in harbors, estimating their scope and influence on the economy. The Finance Ministry General Director and the Finance Ministry budget manager reported on their contacts with the Histadrut on the matter of salaries and pensions.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the economic issue and everything surrounding it calls for a strong position, as only that can lead to results, to success and to meaningful changes in the economic situation.
4. Prime Minister Sharon said that the visit of two senior US members of the National Security Council to Israel was very successful and that in contrast to various publications, no pressure was applied to Israel during the visit. Prime Minister Sharon added that there will be a continuation to these talks on the matter of Israel’s responses to the ‘road map’ and that they will discuss political, security and economic issues in the Middle East following the war in Iraq.
The Prime Minister added that the US places great importance on two subjects: first – the Palestinian government’s policy to terror and incitement, and second – implementing real democracy in the Palestinian Authority. The Prime Minister commented that attempts have been made in the past to initiate contacts with Syria. This began even before the war with Iraq and have continued following its completion. The Prime Minister stated that Israel’s policy is that she is prepared to meet any Arab leader for negotiations without prior conditions, and that each side will be given the opportunity to state his position.
Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that Israel’s position vis-a-vis the Palestinians is that the Palestinians must not be talking about a ceasefire but about a war against terror. The Prime Minister added that any negotiations that take place must confront every issue in every paragraph in order for them to be successful.