Jerusalem, 14 February 1999

Cabinet Communique

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 14.2.99:

1. The Prime Minister commented on the crisis concerning affairs of religion and state, as well as on today’s demonstrations in Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister said that the order of the day is to calm passions and to foster dialogue, with the aspiration of achieving national reconciliation. Neither the denigration of the judicial establishment, nor assaults thereagainst, can be tolerated. Similarly, entire communities must not be branded as extremist or put beyond the pale.

For the Jewish people, nationality and religion are intertwined and it is impossible to define the Jewish people by completely separating its national identity from its religious identity.

The Prime Minister noted that certain elements are seeking to inflame passions, but that the existence of the Jewish people is conditioned upon its ability to transcend internal schisms. The issues before us such as the drafting of yeshiva students may be solved only in a climate of dialogue, patience and tolerance, which are regrettably in short supply.

The Prime Minister intends to continue expanding the forum for dialogue on issues of religion and state, and has also asked Cabinet ministers to assist in calming passions.

The Prime Minister said that, in light of the charged public atmosphere, he regrets that the various gatherings and demonstrations have not been canceled.

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that his appeal for restraint will be answered, and that we will not witness verbal assaults and incitement at today’s demonstrations in Jerusalem.

2. The Cabinet approved the following agriculture grants, within the framework of national priority areas: A) in National Priority "A" agricultural areas, grants amounting to 30% of the total approved investment will be provided via the Investments Authority; B) in National Priority "B" areas, grants amounting to 25% of the total approved investment will be provided, and; C) in National Priority "C" areas, grants amounting to 20% of the total approved investment will be provided.

The Finance Ministry will increase the budget of the Investments Authority, for agricultural purposes, by NIS 50 million.

3. The Cabinet approved the Tourism Minister’s proposal to alter the map of tourism development areas. The changes enhance the standing of Haifa, Safed and Netanya, with regard to investments for hotel construction. The grants will come from the Tourism Ministry budget. The adjusted map will facilitate investments in these areas and cities of great potential for tourism, but which suffer from among other problems unemployment. It should be noted that the Haifa area extends to Daliat al-Carmel.

4. The Cabinet approved the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team on infrastructure development at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai in Meron visited by approximately 1,000,000 people annually, mainly during the three-day Lag B’Omer festivities; the existing infrastructure is inadequate for receiving visitors. The new recommendations, to be implemented in 1999-2001, will cost NIS 20.6 million.

5. The Cabinet discussed the water desalination proposal of the Infrastructure and Agriculture Ministers. The discussion will continue at the next Cabinet meeting.

6. Deputy Minister Michael Eitan updated the Cabinet on the implementation of its decision to install electronic mail boxes at Government offices.