Jerusalem, 4 January 1998

CABINET COMMUNIQUE

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 4.1.98:

1. The Defense Minister and IDF Chief-of-Staff briefed the Cabinet on security matters.

2. The Prime Minister briefed the Cabinet on his conversation with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The Prime Minister said that the US administration had proposed that the meeting between himself and US President Clinton take place on 12 January. The Prime Minister said that the earliest date on which he could hold the meeting was 20 January, and thus it was agreed between himself and the Secretary of State. The Prime Minister emphasized that there is no truth to the report that he had delivered data or assurances to the US on the scope of the phase. This report was also clearly denied by Dennis Ross. The Prime Minister told the Cabinet that prior to his departure for Washington, a discussion will be held and a decision taken by the Cabinet on the positions which he will present to President Clinton. The Prime Minister said that he intends to resume the Cabinet’s political discussions following the approval of the budget.

3. The Defense Minister said that his remarks about UN Security Council Resolution 425 express the positions of previous Israeli governments, according to which Israel would be prepared to withdraw to the international border in accordance with conditions which also appear in the resolution, i.e. that there will be an agreement which provides for security procedures which will prevent terrorist actions against Israel from across the Lebanese border, and that the Lebanese government reestablish its authority in southern Lebanon.

The Prime Minister said that the Defense Minister’s remarks express an Israeli government policy which has not changed, i.e. that Israel is ready to accept Resolution 425 provided that it is possible to reach an agreement with Lebanon which will ensure the security procedures required by Israel. Of course, a unilateral withdrawal is out of the question.

4. Regarding the budget, the Prime Minister said that agreements have been reached with all Knesset factions except Gesher. The Prime Minister informed the Cabinet that in his conversations with the Finance Minister, they discussed finding additional sources [of funding] without breaking the budgetary framework. The Prime Minister reiterated that he intends to meet the commitments on social issues which he gave to the Foreign Minister last July.

5. The Tourism Minister briefed the Cabinet on the events at which leaders from around the world lit Hanukkah candles to mark the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel.

6. The Cabinet decided in accordance with a proposal by the National Infrastructure Minister to establish a fully state-owned company to operate Israel’s railroads and develop and maintain the railroad infrastructure. The company’s goal is to operate both passenger and freight trains; establish, develop, administer, maintain and operate Israel’s rail network, including its stations; and prepare a master plan for rail transportation. The decision was made with the agreement of, and in consultation with, the Transport Minister. According to an agreement between the aforementioned ministries, the Ports and Railways Authority will continue to finance contractual commitments which have been entered into by 1.7.98.

7. The Cabinet noted the Finance Minister’s statement on the decision of the Ministerial Committee on Economic Affairs to include Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi and Acre in the map of "A"-status national preference areas vis-a-vis the Capital Investment Encouragement Law. The decision regarding the appeal on including Ashdod in this map will be made after additional discussion by the Ministerial Committee on Economic Affairs and to the degree that it is necessary the Cabinet.

8. The Cabinet decided to approve the recommendations of the interministerial committee which dealt with flood damages in the Negev. Resources worth approximately NIS 7 million will be directed from the Interior, Housing and Transport Ministry budgets to Be’er Sheva, Eilat and the Megillot and Eshkol Regional Councils. In addition, the Agriculture Ministry and the Settlement Unit will assist farmers who were hurt; the Tourism Ministry will finance assistance to public tourism infrastructure in the northern Dead Sea area.

9. The Cabinet decided to accept the Communications Minister’s proposal to establish an interministerial team, in cooperation with the Knesset Committee on the Advancement of the Status of Women, in order to examine how to increase cooperation between the various organizations involved with instances of family violence in which violent family members were in possession of military or civilian weapons. The Prime Minister said that in recent days, we have witnessed the murder of people by their spouses, and that this has reached the dimensions of a spreading plague; we must do everything in our power to reduce the plague. The team will be headed by the Justice Ministry Director-General.

10. The Cabinet decided to adopt the recommendations of the public-professional committee appointed by the Cabinet to determine correct procedures for protecting the environment, and charged the Environment Minister with responsibility for implementing them. The minister will set up a steering committee to coordinate the recommended procedures.