Jerusalem, October 8, 2003

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Wednesday), October 8, 2003:

1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters and noted that the recent holidays were marked by the October 4, 2003 bombing at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. The attack was perpetrated by a female suicide terrorist affiliated with the Jenin branch of Islamic Jihad, which had been trying for weeks to perpetrate an attack in Israel. The security establishment is investigating how she managed to enter Israel.

The Defense Minister said that the Haifa attack interrupted a series of impressive successes by the security establishment since the previous round of suicide attacks almost one month ago. In the wake of the attack, the entry of Palestinians into Israel has been prevented; a complete closure has been imposed for the duration of the holidays and internal closures have been imposed on towns in Judea and Samaria, thus preventing traffic between them except for humanitarian needs ); supervision has been tightened at crossings and checkpoints; the operation in Jenin has been widened ); Rafiah has been isolated from Khan Yunis and operations against weapons smuggling via tunnels from Egypt continue ); and counter-terrorist operations continue ). The Defense Minister has ordered that IDF units – regular and reserve – in Judea, Samaria and Gaza be reinforced according to operational needs.

The Defense Minister reminded ministers that the response to the Haifa attack included a new element – bombing a terrorist target in Syria ). This aerial attack was aimed at a terrorist training base under the logistical auspices of the PFLP and Ahmed Jibril’s organization, in which all Palestinian terrorist groups – including Islamic Jihad – trained. In contravention of mendacious Syrian reports, the base was active and not abandoned, and was not a refugee camp. Israel attacked Syria because the latter not only sponsors Lebanese terrorist groups such as Hizbullah but provides active support, financing and assistance to centers of terrorism in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Israel has warned Syria more than once but Damascus chose to ignore these warnings. Syria appealed to the UN Security Council in order to create the impression that its response was purely diplomatic. However, in actual practice, there was sniper fire at IDF troops near Metulla ) and mortar fire at IDF positions near Manda ). Israel is continuing to charge Syria with responsibility for anti-Israel terrorism that either originates from its territory or which enjoys Damascus’ sponsorship. Israel has no interest in escalating the situation but cannot allow external anti-Israel terrorism to enjoy immunity.

Regarding the formation of Abu Ala’s government, the Defense Minister said that Israel’s position regarding the new government is as it always has been – Israel will judge it according to its actions, especially the way it deals with terror and the infrastructures of terror.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on diplomatic issues regarding Abu Ala’s government and said that the latter will deal with Israel and the US after gaining legitimacy at home. The Foreign Minister said that Abu Ala’s objectives are as follows: Restore Yasser Arafat to the center of events, temporarily halt terrorist attacks in order to show the world that Arafat is "capable of supplying the goods" and push the ball into Israel’s court, agree on a ceasefire with Israel and build legitimacy for his government. The Foreign Minister emphasized that Abu Ala has not made a strategic decision to dismantle the infrastructures of terror. He said that the Palestinians are waging a propaganda campaign in Europe and the US aimed at showing that the security fence is political, and added that they expect the support of the UN Security Council on this issue. The Foreign Minister noted the US administration had notified Congress on September 30, 2003 regarding the loan guarantees being provided to Israel and had informed Congress that the question of deducting the costs of the fence was the subject of bilateral discussions. The Foreign Minister also discussed the international repercussions of the October 4 suicide bombing in Haifa and the attack on Syria.

2. Minister Natan Sharansky briefed ministers on his recent trip to 13 US university campuses and on his meetings with Jewish and non-Jewish students. He urged that all ministers who travel to the US visit university campuses and address students.