Jerusalem, July 20, 2003

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), July 20, 2003:

1. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert briefed ministers on the issue of single-parent families in light of the economic situation and their plan to encourage the employment of single mothers who receive support payments.

It was agreed that the aforementioned ministers and Social Welfare Minister Zevulon Orlev would discuss the plan that is being formed based on the principle of going out to work. The issue will be discussed in the very near future by the Ministerial Committee on Society and the Economy (the Socio-economic Cabinet).

2. The Cabinet approved the following appointments: Yehoshua Saguy as Ambassador to the Philippines, Ronni Milo as Ambassador to the UK, David Danieli as Ambassador to India, Foreign Ministry Acting Director-General Yoav Biran as Foreign Ministry Director-General.

3. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon briefed ministers on his visit to the UK and Norway, and his meetings with their respective leaders. The purpose of the Prime Minister’s visit was to strengthen Israel’s relations with European states in the political, defense, economic and scientific spheres ahead of the upcoming changes in the European Union. Meetings centered on talks with the Palestinians, Iran, Syria, Hizballah, the European attitude towards terror and bilateral issues.

The Prime Minister described his visit to Britain and his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair as friendly, open and honest, the purpose of which was to improve Israeli-British relations. Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Blair discussed various issues including the Palestinians, the threat from Syria and Iran and bilateral issues. The Prime Minister found the British to be sympathetic towards Israel’s needs, as they understand that it is impossible to move forwards in the face of terror, violence and incitement. In addition, the British expressed the opinion that only by the complete dismantling of the terror organizations and their infrastructures would there be quiet and security. Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Blair agreed to strengthen their ties and will maintain ongoing links between their respective bureaus.

Prime Minister Sharon discussed the threat posed by Syria and Iran in his meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and said that the British intend to press Syria in the hope that it will cease its activities in Lebanon, and stop providing protection to leaders of Palestinian terror organizations who are currently residing in Damascus.

Prime Minister Sharon reported on his meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik, who expressed understanding, now more than at any other time, that without a complete end to terror and the dismantling of the terror organizations and their infrastructures, it would be impossible to advance the peace process. The Prime Minister emphasized that there is no wave of terror; rather, terror is perpetrated by the Palestinians against Israeli civilian targets, and Israel attempts to prevent such acts from being carried out.It was agreed that both states would act to advance bilateral relations.

The Prime Minister concluded that his visits to both the UK and Norway were successful, and aided in improving relations between Israel and the two countries.

4. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on the security situation in the three weeks since the Palestinian Authority received security responsibility for the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem. He pointed out that on the ground, the downward trend in the number of terrorist attacks and warnings is continuing. Incitement in the Palestinian media has similarly declined. Following Israeli measures to ease restrictions, there has been a significant improvement in the atmosphere on the Palestinian street in the areas in which responsibility has been transferred to the Palestinians. However, terror such as found expression in the kidnapping of Eliyahu Gurel and the knife attack in Jaffa, in which one Israeli man was murdered is continuing. The Palestinian security services are still focusing on localized, responsive actions as opposed to counter-terrorist actions. Terrorist elements are continuing their efforts to rebuild their infrastructures.

Defense Minister Mofaz described the abduction and release of Eliyahu Gurel and praised the forces that were involved in freeing the abducted driver. Prime Minister Sharon asked the Defense Minister to convey his gratitude as well to the security forces involved.

The Defense Minister concluded by saying that while Israel is in a critical period, the security dialogue with the Palestinian side would continue, based on the clear demand that the latter make tangible progress in the security sphere and in the war on terror.