(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 1.2.98:
1. The Defense Minister, the Commander of the Air Force and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories briefed the Cabinet. The Commander of the Air Force reported on the IAF’s acquisition of F-15I aircraft. He emphasized that these planes give Israel an enhanced strategic capability.
2. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories stated that during 1997 there was a clear increase in the scope of trade from the areas of the Palestinian Authority to Israel. The number of Palestinian businessmen and merchants entering Israel doubled, and currently stands at 12,000. The maximum quota of Palestinians permitted to enter Israel for work has been cancelled. The quota is decided according to the needs of the Israeli economy and currently stands at about 60,000 persons. (It should be noted that illegal workers can double this number). Regarding the extent of trade at the crossing points between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, while the number of trucks entering Israel was 12,000 in 1996, the figure rose to 15,000 in 1997.
3. The Prime Minister briefed the ministers on his meeting last night with the U.S. Secretary of State, who informed him that the United States is making a diplomatic effort to restore the work of the weapons inspectors in Iraq. However, the United States is determined to take the necessary measures vis-a-vis Iraq if the diplomatic effort does not succeed. The Prime Minister emphasized that Israel is not involving itself in the current dispute, but at the same time it is taking the necessary steps to prepare for any eventuality.
Regarding negotiations with the Palestinians, the Prime Minister informed the ministers that the discussion with the Secretary of State on issues raised at the Washington meetings with President Clinton is continuing. The Prime Minister said that Israel continues to insist on the principal of reciprocity, which means concrete implementation of the Palestinian Authority’s commitments. At this stage, there is still no agreement over the scope and lines of the redeployment, and discussions on this matter are continuing.
4. The Cabinet held a discussion on the recommendations of the ministerial committee on managing agricultural land. The Cabinet also discussed the professional opinion formulated on this matter by an inter-ministerial team headed by the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, which detailed the reasons for determining the levels of compensation, in accordance with the recommendations of the Ronen Committee.
5. The Cost of Living Index will be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting.