Jerusalem, 3 March 2002

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), March 3, 2002:

1. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, ISA Director Avi Dichter and Israel Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishky briefed ministers on current security matters, including – inter alia – terrorist attacks which were perpetrated in the past week and last night’s attack in Jerusalem. The Defense Minister said that the wave of attacks occurred despite Israel’s efforts to bring about a relaxation and the assurances of senior Palestinian Authority officials at the security meetings that they would try to do likewise. Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer made it clear that the Fatah-Tanzim organization, which is part and parcel of the PA, has been responsible for almost all of the recent deadly attacks.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer commented on the IDF’s actions in the Balata and Jenin refugee camps and said that the planning and implementation of the forces that took part were worthy of all praise. The IDF struck at those who use terror, arrested wanted fugitives and uncovered terrorist infrastructures.

The Government held a discussion following the foregoing briefings. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon summarized the discussion and thanked Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer, Police Commissioner Aharonishky, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz, ISA Director Dichter, the IDF, the Israel Police and the ISA for their outstanding work regarding the struggle against Palestinian terror. Prime Minister Sharon sent his and the Government’s compliments to all those involved in operational security establishment activities.

2. The Government approved the recommendations of the ministerial team chaired by Minister Natan Sharansky regarding the disputed site in Nazareth. The approved recommendations are as follows:

  1. The State proposes that the Waqf and the Muslim residents of Nazareth build a large and dignified mosque on one of seven alternative sites, several of which are a mere 250 meters from the site in question. Most of the alternative sites are under state ownership and are immediately available. The site chosen by the Waqf will be allocated for the construction of a mosque. Similarly, the construction of a mosque on the disputed site will not be permitted.
  2. The ministerial team recommends that the relevant government officials, together with Waqf personnel and other local officials, consider the possibility of renovating the structure of the tomb in the square and its environs without changing the status of the site.
  3. A physical barrier must separate the tomb enclosure from the nearby street and the rest of the square.
  4. The original plan for building a public/tourist square open to the community at large must be upheld.
  5. The various relevant government authorities will work to implement and enforce the foregoing decisions in their totality.
  6. The foregoing decisions replace all previous ministerial team decisions.

3. The Government authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to discuss and approve the draft law on the implementation of the interim agreement regarding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (amendments to restrictions on activities) and submit it to the Knesset forthwith.

At its meeting today, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation discussed and approved the draft law.

The aforementioned amendment is necessary following the enrollment of residents of the State of Israel – mainly those residing in eastern Jerusalem – into the PA security services and other armed forces operating in the PA areas, and the activity of the aforementioned enrollees in the service of these armed forces inside the State of Israel.

This reality harms the security of the state and cannot be reconciled with respect for the sovereignty of the State of Israel.

Therefore, it has been proposed that enrolling residents and citizens of the State of Israel in the various PA security services will constitute a criminal offense, the maximum punishment for which will be five years’ imprisonment. Being enrolled in, or belonging to, these organizations will constitute a criminal offense the maximum punishment for which will be seven years’ imprisonment. This is in order to give law enforcement authorities the legal tools to deal with this phenomenon.

Similar offenses regarding enrolling – and being enrolled – in the armed forces of a foreign state are found in Article 122 of the 1977 Penal Code but these offenses are not applicable to the phenomenon detailed above since – inter alia – Article 122 of the Penal Code deals with "foreign states."

This decision is in the context of the Government’s policy that in the framework of furthering Israeli control in Jerusalem, all PA activities – including those of the various security forces – in the city will be halted.

4. The Government approved the agreement that was initialed with the Histadrut and the disabled regarding the improvement of assistance arrangements for the latter.

5. The Government decided to ratify and expand its 28.9.69 decision regarding the registration of claims by Jews from Arab countries.

In its 1969 decision, the Government decided:

  1. To set up a special, temporary Justice Ministry department to document Jews from Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Yemen who had immigrated to Israel since 1948.
  2. The department will begin research and registration with the objective of gathering legal material on damages to property and the persecution of Jews in the aforementioned countries, and to concentrate the claims of Jews from these countries.
  3. The department will concentrate the documents which have been gathered up until now by various institutions and organizations of immigrants from these countries and continue working in three areas:
    • The collection and concentration of orders from these countries by right of which Jewish property was restricted, expropriated, confiscated, etc.
    • The collection of documents regarding acts of persecution against Jews;
    • The registration of Jewish personal and communal claims regarding bodily harm, or the expropriation or loss of property.
  4. The material to be gathered by the department will one day serve as the basis for establishing these claims vis-a-vis the aforementioned states and international organizations.
  5. The qualifications of the registration team and the financing of its expenses will be coordinated with the budgetary authorities and the Civil Service Commission.

The Government has now decided to expand its previous decision so that the registration will also include Jews who left all Arab states and Iran – and not just the four countries mentioned in the original decision – since the 1940s.

  1. The registration will be carried out and concentrated by the Justice Ministry in the context of the official in charge of legal assistance.
  2. The Justice Ministry will carry out all activities necessary to fulfill its aforementioned mission (printing and distributing forms, advertisements in the media, the computerization of data, etc.), including the establishment of internet sites in such languages as may be necessary.
  3. The Justice Ministry will preserve and copy claims and other documentary materials gathered by it.
  4. The qualifications of the registration team and the financing of its expenses will be coordinated with the budgetary authorities and the Civil Service Commission.
  5. Moreover, the Justice Ministry may contact community and other organizations in the country and around the world which are willing to participate in the aforementioned activities, including their financing, and define a communications framework with them.

The chronicle of persecutions, vicious attacks and confiscations of private and communal property which accompanied the departure of Jews from Arab countries in the years preceding and following the establishment of the State of Israel are well-known but the issue of compensation arrangements has never been raised, integrated into political agreements or won the comprehensive documentation that it deserves.

In 1948, approximately 860,000 Jews lived in Arab countries. Today, these states have been almost completely emptied of Jews and not without reason: Countless vicious attacks, loss of life, limb and property were perpetrated against them in the Arab countries against the background of the establishment of the State of Israel and frequently resulted in most of them being forced to flee these countries amidst considerable human suffering and the dispossession of all their property.

It would be appropriate to emphasize the fact that Jews from Arab countries immigrated to Israel not only due to repression or because they were expelled but also because of their love of Zion or the Zionist dream that does not detract from their proprietary and legal rights, nor from the responsibility of the regimes in those countries which inflicted physical, economic and emotional harm on them.

The decisive majority (more than 2/3) of Jews from Arab countries immigrated here and today, they or their descendants are Israeli citizens. Here they rebuilt their destroyed homes and here they realized the civil and political rights which they had been deprived of in their countries of origin. The State of Israel is, therefore, the natural address, and it has a moral and historical obligation to assist its citizens who came from Arab countries in documenting that which preceded their immigration and to represent their claims vis-a-vis the Arab countries and any international body (this, of course, without infringing on any individual proprietary rights).

And indeed, the aforementioned September 28, 1969 Government decision gave outstanding expression to this obligation. However, the considerable time has elapsed and the new circumstances that have been created in the country and around the world require the renewal of this decision as outlined above.