Israel continues to maintain a total and wholehearted commitment to the
peace process, and as such has undertaken the following steps:
High level meetings have taken place between Prime Minister Netanyahu,
Foreign Minister Levy, Defence Minister Mordekhai and the Chairman of the
Palestinian Council Yasser Arafat.
Together with the Palestinians we have set up a common agenda in order to
complete the implementation of the Interim Agreement.
We have relaxed certain aspects of the closure and increased the number
of entry permits issued to workers so that the various economic hardships
which befell the Palestinians could be alleviated.
Israel has formed, together with the Palestinians, a high level steering
committee which will work to resolve the outstanding issues between the
However, he attempt to create an atmosphere of political pressure upon
Israel, together with threats to end the normalization process between
Israel and Arab states, does not serve the interest of peace in the
Middle East. This message has been made clear to Syria, Egypt and the
Palestinian Council. It is unacceptable that, even prior to dialogue,
negotiations or talks, our interlocutors should engage in such tactics.
Regarding the opening of the Western Wall, the following points should be
- The restoration of the Western Wall Tunnel was undertaken as part of
an ongoing effort by Israel both to reveal major archeological finds in
Jerusalem and to improve the tourism infrastructure in the Old City.
- The tunnel itself, which dates from ancient times, allows pedestrians
to enter one of the oldest subterranean paths in Jerusalem from the
Western Wall plaza and exit onto the Via Dolorosa. It must be emphasized
that no part of the tunnel runs underneath the Temple Mount.
- The tunnel was re-excavated under the supervision of archaeologists and
engineers. No archeological or religious sites were damaged in its
- The tunnel’s restoration does not endanger any buildings or other
structures in the Old City.
- No private property was expropriated, condemned or otherwise
confiscated in order to accomplish this project.
- The restoration of the tunnel does not violate the Interim Agreement
between Israel and the Palestinians as archeological restorations in
Jerusalem are not covered by the document.
- The opening of the tunnel will increase the access by tourists to the
Via Dolorosa from the Western Wall plaza – thereby benefiting merchants
in the Moslem Quarter.
The current atmosphere, incitement and barely disguised threats have
unfortunately led to violence and are a clear warning regarding the
consequences of the current escalation of rhetoric. The manifestations of
violence over the last few days do not serve the interests of any
participant in the peace process.
We therefore view the recent incidents which accompanied the opening of
the new entrance to the Western Wall tunnel as part of an ongoing
campaign to reap political profit by pressuring Israel to adopt certain
positions even before the issues themselves have come up for negotiation.
Since the inauguration of Israel’s new government we have witnessed the
Cairo summit, meetings of Arab foreign ministers, increased tensions on
our northern border and lastly the contemptuous characterizations of our
Prime Minister by senior Egyptian officials and ministers. For all of
these reasons it seems readily apparent that the current outbreak of
violence is a calculated maneuver to achieve certain political advantages
before the resumption of negotiations and not a spontaneous occurrence
engendered by the opening of the entrance to the tunnel.
Despite the recent rhetorical escalation and unfortunate, violent events, Israel continues to
stand by its commitment to the peace process as detailed in this document.