Jerusalem, 29 December 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), December 29, 2002:

1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters and the terrorist attacks which have occurred in recent days, including last Friday’s deadly shooting attack at Otniel in which four hesder yeshiva students were murdered. The Defense Minister said that counter-terrorist actions are being carried out on a continuous basis both inside Israel and in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. The Defense Minister reported that the IDF is continuing to use heavy pressure in the field in order to prevent and foil terrorist actions and added that this pressure has led to impressive achievements. The Defense Minister discussed the arrests that were carried out last week among suspected terrorists and referred to several of the most prominent. The Defense Minister added that the US is showing determination and is preparing the military option against Iraq.

Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed ministers on his trip to Europe and his meetings with Italian, French, British and Russian leaders.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made it clear that he and Defense Minister Mofaz have agreed to step up the war on terror and have concurred that all necessary steps would be taken to this effect.

2. The Cabinet approved a treaty with Bulgaria to prevent double taxation and income tax evasion.

3. The Cabinet decided to continue the plan for encouraging aliyah from Argentina, Uruguay, France and South Africa.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he views aliyah as Israel’s most important and central goal, and noted that he made it clear when the government was established that it was necessary to bring an additional 1 million Jews to Israel within 10-13 years. The Prime Minister noted that an important step had recently been taken in extending the absorption basket to all immigrants regardless of where they had emigrated from. The Prime Minister said that in glancing towards the future, all Jews would be able to live as Jews only in the Land of Israel and that, therefore, all efforts would have to be directed accordingly. The Prime Minister said that aliyah was critical to the existence of the Jewish people, adding that it was a major contributor to the State of Israel’s security, economy and political standing. The Prime Minister remarked that it was everyone’s duty to further the absorption of immigrants in the country since this was a supreme national goal.

4. Prime Minister Sharon informed ministers that 12,000 illegal foreign workers – 60% of whom left voluntarily – had been successfully deported over the last three months.