(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), November 30, 2003:
1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on joint security matters including operations to thwart terror, the security fence, Abu Ala’s government and the ceasefire initiative, international Islamic terror, the Iranian nuclear program and his visit to the US two weeks ago.
Defense Minister Mofaz emphasized that the recent relative quiet represents an erroneous picture, and that the terrorist organizations continue with their efforts to perpetrate terror attacks at similar levels to those experienced previously. However, since the terror attack in the Maxim restaurant, Israel has been successful in foiling them. Defense Minister Mofaz pointed out that today, there is intelligence information existing on 44 concrete terror attacks. In addition, the security establishment is constantly operating to ensure that the smuggling of weapons to Rafiah is prevented.
Defense Minister Mofaz said that despite these difficult conditions, Israel is doing everything possible to ease conditions for the Palestinian population. The Defense Minister added that construction of the separation fence is continuing as planned and without interruption, and that this project is contributing significantly to security in Israel. At the same time, Israel is making every effort to ensure that the fence will have the minimum effect on the daily life of the Palestinian population.
Defense Minister Mofaz observed that Abu Ala’s government does not have an answer to the security issue, that Arafat has returned to center stage and is again pulling the strings in all areas including security. Despite this, the Defense Minister believes that Abu Ala’s government should be given the opportunity to make a difference to the situation, on the basis of Israel’s security demands and that it should be judged according to its behavior and actions in fighting terror.
Defense Minister Mofaz noted that there has been an increase in global Islamic terror, which was most obvious in the chain of terror attacks in Istanbul and in this context it is important to note that there has been an increase in attempts by such groups to perpetrate attacks from Jordan. Israel is taking into consideration the possibility that there will be further terror attacks against Israeli/Jewish targets abroad and is preparing for such an eventuality.
The Defense Minister reported on his visit to the US, and said that the topics of discussion focused on general issues of the region.
Prime Minister Sharon stated that Prime Minister Abu Ala will be assessed based on his actions and not his words. Israel has heard his announcement and conditions for a meeting, and while the Prime Minister does not see the location of a meeting as important, the conditions set by Abu Ala are unacceptable. The Prime Minister said, "I would like to announce that no conditions will be accepted, whether they concern ceasing construction of the separation fence or dismantling it or any other demands."
2. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed ministers on negotiations with the Histadrut and noted that the agreement reached was torpedoed by the Histadrut.
3. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and the Deputy General Director for Information in the Foreign Ministry briefed ministers on Israeli efforts to present the Israeli position abroad, and said that there is a need to increase activity in this area. Foreign Minister Shalom said that it is a strategic element of national security and Israeli foreign policy. Issues to be addressed include the cycle of violence in the region, Israel’s international image, media criticism of Israel on the matter of the separation fence and questions of Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. Foreign Minister Shalom indicated that Israeli embassies in Europe would be recruited to work on this matter and said that he intends to set up a National Council of Information.
4. Minister Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Committee for Diaspora matters commented on the wave on global anti-Semitism and said that there has been a significant rise in anti-Semitism among "liberal" left wing European and Palestinian elements and that the State of Israel and Jews are being demonized and dehumanized. This is preparing the ground for a tragedy.
Minister Sharansky played parts of the Al-Manar anti-Semitic and racist series which was produced by the Syrians and broadcasted by Hizbullah to millions of Muslims in Europe through satellite, and gives strong motivation to perpetrate terror attacks against Jews. Minister Sharansky said that the Israeli government must demand that European governments ban the broadcast of this series, and that they charge those responsible for the program with incitement and racism. Minister Sharansky asked that every minister who meets with his European counterpart raise this issue with them.
In addition, Minister Sharansky highlighted the need to monitor anti-Semitic advertisements in the Arab media, which currently is produced by private institutions. Minister Sharansky announced that January 27, 2004 will be declared a day for fighting anti-Semitism. This day has two purposes: first, to raise awareness on the matter of the new wave of anti-Semitism with the viewpoint that it represents not only a danger to Jews abroad but also to the very existence of the State of Israel, by bringing into question the its very legitimacy. Second, to express Israel’s commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish nation wherever they are, and not just to Israeli citizens. This day will be marked not just in Israel, but also in Jewish schools abroad and on university campuses.
5. The government decided according to Basic Law: The President, that President Katsav will leave for a state visit to China between December 14-20, 2003.