(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), December 28, 2003:
1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid tribute to outgoing Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein and thanked him for his dedication and service to the country over the last thirty years.
2. The Cabinet decided as follows regarding the restoration of Jewish property and rights in all spheres and in all relevant countries:
The State of Israel, in cooperation with Jewish organizations, will lead and focus on the restoration of Jewish communal and private property in general, and property belonging to those who suffered in the Holocaust, regardless of whether there are heirs, both in Israel and abroad. The government will work together with internal sources, external sources, various organizations, Jewish communities, the Jewish Agency and foreign government officials.
In order to implement such a policy, a ministerial committee will be set up on the matter including: Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky (Chairman), Justice Minister Joseph Lapid, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, Housing and Construction Minister Effie Eitam and Minister Meir Shetrit. The committees tasks will be to formulate government policy on this matter and to present an annual plan on its implementation.
In addition a steering committee will be formed which will operate together with – and report to – the ministerial committee, and carry out tasks assigned to it.
3. The Cabinet also discussed the rights and claims of Jews who left Arab countries as refugees and decided to resume and expand upon its activities in this area:
The Justice Ministry Division for the Rights of Jews from Arab Countries will continue to gather information, data, claims and documents and will record details of Jewish private and communal property in Arab countries and the denial of their rights. A single database will be created which will hold this information.
The Justice Ministry will publish this information in a variety of newspapers and languages in order to encourage people to come forward with their claims.
A steering committee will be set up on the matter of the rights of Jewish who fled Arab countries and will be connected to the abovementioned ministerial committee. The steering committee will report to the ministerial committee on its progress and will carry out tasks assigned to it.
The Justice Ministry will cooperate with other ministries, the Jewish Agency, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, Jewish community representatives and other such officials as may be necessary.
4. The Cabinet decided to establish a permanent committee of ministry directors-general, responsible for formulating decisions and overseeing their implementation in order to fight trafficking in women for purposes of prostitution.
5. The Cabinet ratified an agreement with Ukraine on the matter of settling claims from the air tragedy of October 4, 2001, in which a Siberian Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk was shot down by a Ukrainian army missile during a military exercise. The Ukrainian government has agreed to compensate the families of those killed in the tragedy.
6. Prime Minister Sharon said that the budget must be ratified as quickly as possible in order to ensure economic stability. The Prime Minister emphasized that the budget must remain as it stands due to international obligations on this matter. Prime Minister Sharon requested that members of the coalition respect this.
7. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters, noting that there have been increased efforts by the terrorist organizations to perpetrate attacks in Israel and the territories, as seen in the terror attack at the Geha intersection in which four people were murdered, which was carried out by the PFLP based in Nablus. The Defense Minister added that the IDF has been successful in thwarting many terror attacks in recent weeks.
Defense Minister Mofaz commented on Friday’s tragic event in which the IDF opened fire on demonstrators. The Defense Minister said that the demonstrators had attempted to tear down and damage the fence and the electronic cables on it. Defense Minister Mofaz instructed that a thorough investigation into the incident – in which one Israeli was seriously injured – be carried out, but noted that we have an obligation to prevent the destruction of the security fence which saves lives.
Prime Minister Sharon said that while the security fence must not be damaged in any way, such demonstrations must not have such serious results, and the incident should have been resolved by dispersing the crowd.
8. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom discussed his Egyptian counterpart’s visit to Israel last week, which he said represents the continued warming of relations with Egypt. The successful visit was shaded by the attack against Egyptian Foreign Minister Maher by fundamentalist Palestinians on the Temple Mount.
Foreign Minister Shalom said that developments in Libya, as with the capture of Saddam Hussein, are a sign to other radical regimes of the dangers they face if they do not dismantle their weapons on the one hand, and of the advantages of cooperation with the US on the other.
The Foreign Minister also mentioned US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s radio interview over the weekend in which he said that the US plans to push the road map and bring the sides to the negotiating table. US Secretary of State Powell blamed the Palestinians for the lack of progress and said that this would only be possible if they chose leaders who will fight terror and lead the Palestinian people in a new direction.