(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon greeted the Muslim and Druze communities on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha and made the following remarks: "Eid Al-Adha, which ends the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, symbolizes – according to the Islamic faith – the binding of Ishmael, the brother of Isaac, the son of our father Abraham. It is good to recall, from time to time, that we are the children of one family and we will continue to live together in peace in the State of Israel for many long and good years. Today, I express the hope that the day is not far off when the awful violence and terror, which claimed additional innocent victims last week, will cease. On behalf of myself and the government, I would like to send condolences to the bereaved families and wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded."
2. Prime Minister Sharon congratulated Attorney General Meni Mazuz, who assumes his office today, and wished him great success and many years of working with the government.
Attorney General Mazuz thanked Justice Minister Joseph Lapid and the other ministers for their faith in him and for choosing him for the position.
3. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevy Farkash briefed ministers on current security matters. Defense Minister Mofaz said that last Thursday was a painful day in the life of the nation that is struggling for security and is concerned for the fate of its sons; there was a terrible terrorist attack in the morning, and in the evening three of its sons were returned home from Hizbullah. He discussed the Jerusalem terrorist attack in the context of his review of the security forces’ accelerated counter-terrorist and preventative actions, which have succeeded in significantly lowering the scope of suicide attacks on Israeli territory. The Defense Minister detailed the various actions which the security establishment decided upon following the aforementioned terrorist attack.
Defense Minister Mofaz also discussed, in the context of last week’s Jerusalem terrorist attack, the Palestinian Authority (PA) failure to contend with the terrorism and anarchy, under the aegis of Arafat, and the need for the security fence.
Defense Minister Mofaz referred to the POW and MIA exchange deal which was carried out last week. Regarding Nasrallah’s remarks about the possibility of additional kidnappings, the Defense Minister said that if Nasrallah attempts to perpetrate further abductions, Israel’s response will be very harsh and that all of Israel’s options are open.
OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Farkash briefed ministers on two issues: the conflict with the Palestinians and the situation in the north vis-a-vis Hizbullah, Lebanon and Syria in the wake of the POW and MIA deal. Maj.-Gen. Farkash said that the former issue was characterized by diplomatic stalemate and continued terrorism, almost unrestrained on the part of the PA.
Maj.-Gen. Farkash discussed both the socio-economic situation in the PA and its political state-of-affairs, given that Arafat is being pressed to change his predilection regarding the anarchy which prevails in the PA and the encouragement for continued terror against Israel.
4. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on current diplomatic affairs in the wake of last week’s Jerusalem terrorist attack especially regarding the Foreign Ministry’s intensive action in the diplomatic and media fields.
In regard to the foreign criticism of the security fence, and of Israel in general, due to its defensive steps against continued terror, the Foreign Ministry has decided to make the reality of terrorist attacks clear to the world at large. The Foreign Minister said that the visits of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and the head of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, as well as that of US envoys John Wolf and David Satterfield, had two goals – to pressure the Palestinians into taking action to halt the Arafat-led anarchy and to honor the security commitments that they took upon themselves under the roadmap, and to work towards the resumption of dialogue between the Palestinians and Israel.
Foreign Minister Shalom also briefed ministers on Israel’s legal and information preparations ahead of the International Court of Justice in The Hague’s discussion of the security fence. The Foreign Minister noted with satisfaction that 30 countries, including the major democracies, have submitted statements to the ICJ in which they express their reservations over the court’s dealing with this issue.
Foreign Minister Shalom discussed the strategic importance of bilateral Israeli-Jordanian relations.
Foreign Minister Shalom briefed ministers on the Davos forum and his meetings with senior statesmen there.
5. The Cabinet decided to accept Defense Minister Mofaz’s proposal to potpone the observance of Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day and Independence Day by one day, with the former beginning on the evening of Sunday, April 25, 2004.
6. The Cabinet decided to grant an additional 45 days to the task force that is formulating recommendations on Israel’s information campaign in order to formulate its proposals.
The Cabinet, on December 7, 2003, decided to assign Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon the responsibility of coordinating the staff work of representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry, on formulating within 45 days recommendations on reinforcing Israel’s information campaign.