Jerusalem, 15 December 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), December 15, 2002:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that in the next government he intends to reduce the number of government ministries and that he met this morning with the professional team appointed by the government to discuss the issue. The team will submit its recommendations as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon informed of his decision in accordance with Basic Law: Government that he is appointing Minister Tzippi Livni to serve as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Minister Limor Livnat will serve as Minister of Science, Culture and Sport in addition to her position as Education Minister; Minister Tzahi Hanegbi will serve as Transport Minister in addition to his position as Minister of Environment and Minister Danny Naveh will be appointed as Minister for Trade and Industry.

2. The cabinet has appointed Minister Reuven Rivlin to be responsible for the Broadcast Authority Law.

3. IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon briefed ministers on ongoing security matters and discussed the issue of suicide-attacks, the security establishment’s counter-terrorist actions, the arrest of wanted Hamas and other fugitives, and the operation at Palestinian Authority Preventive Security HQ in Gaza.

Chief-of-Staff Yaalon pointed out that since Operation "Defensive Shield", more than 4,700 Palestinians involved in terrorism have been arrested and – as of today – 109 homes have been demolished, most of them in Judea and Samaria. The Chief-of-Staff discussed the effectiveness of home demolitions.

Chief-of-Staff Yaalon said that approximately 200 terrorists – who attempted to infiltrate communities and cross the fence into Israel – have been killed in defensive actions in the Gaza Strip since Operation "Defensive Shield".

Chief-of-Staff Yaalon added that aggressive IDF actions would continue wherever such actions were necessary.

Chief-of-Staff Yaalon referred to the incident in which UNRWA employee Ian Hook was killed and said that Israel has, on numerous occasions, discovered UNRWA installations and vehicles have been used for terror purposes.

Regarding the preparations for Christmas in Bethlehem, Chief-of-Staff Yaalon made it clear to the clergy and to Palestinian civilian officials that Israel will allow Christmas celebrations to be held and will enable Israeli Arabs, residents of Judea and Samaria and tourists to attend the festivities. However, the IDF has no intention of withdrawing from the city. The Chief-of-Staff emphasized that Israel will, for the time being, retain security responsibility for Bethlehem.

Chief-of-Staff Yaalon also referred to the situation in the north.