(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met yesterday (Tuesday), 22 February 2005 with the Coordination Committee between the Government, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. Justice and Immigration and Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni, Interior Minister Ofer Pines, Minister Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor, General Director of the Prime Minister’s office, Ilan Cohen, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon, Chairman of the Friends of the Jewish Agency, Carol Solomon, United Israel Appeal representative, UJC members and representatives of various government ministries attended.

The Prime Minister opened with a briefing on the situation with the Palestinians. “We see recent developments in the Palestinian Authority as an opportunity, through which it will be possible to advance the peace process. If the new Palestinian leadership does not support terror, Israel’s response will be positive and we will be willing to move towards them, to help them and to coordinate various elements related to disengagement.”

Prime Minister Sharon said that talks are being held with the Palestinians on a number of issues including: security and intelligence cooperation, transferal of responsibility of Palestinians cities, presenting Palestinian plan based on Tennet and Zinni plans, and dismantling terrorist infrastructure.

The Prime Minister commented, “Israel is not part of the ceasefire agreement. If there is quiet, and terror ends, then we will be part of that. It must be clear to the new Palestinian leadership that the ceasefire can only be the first stage, and that they must take real steps to dismantle the terrorist organizations and their infrastructure and to advance comprehensive government reforms.”

Chairman of the Friends of the Jewish Agency, Carol Solomon praised the Prime Minister and said, “This was an historical week for the Jewish nation. The decision that was passed was a brave decision which carried a high price for you. In the name of my colleagues, we thank you and appreciate your brave leadership, and we extend our support to you. We hope that you will have the strength and the inspiration to lead the Jewish people and the State of Israel to the peace we all long for.”

Prime Minister Sharon instructed the Jewish Agency to ensure that those waiting to move to Israel from Ethiopia are given the proper preparation, in order in improve their absorption to Israel. The Interior Minister announced that a professional committee headed by the Director General of his ministry will form a working plan for the immigration of the Falash mura, and that this plan will be presented to the Prime Minister within two months.

The Prime Minister summarized: “I feel responsibility for the existence of the Jewish world, immigration is essential for its future and the development of the State of Israel. When we brought 1.2 million Jews to Israel, the face of the state changed, and therefore we must increase the rate of immigration.” Prime Minister Sharon added that important issues on the agenda today are, immigration, settling the Negev, Galilee and Jerusalem, and Jewish-Zionist education.