(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 13 June, 2004:

1. Prime Minister Sharon referred to the Cabinet’s approval of the disengagement plan last Sunday (6 June, 2004) and said that now that the Cabinet has formally adopted the disengagement plan, all members of the government (including deputy ministers) are obligated to support it.  This is the essence of the principle of collective responsibility which applies to the government members once a decision has been taken by it.  This principle can be found in Basic Law: The Government.

Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that in the coming months, and at least until the end of the current Knesset session, ministers should refrain from traveling abroad on days when the Knesset is in session and that they must be present in order to participate in Knesset votes.  On days when the Knesset is in session, all ministers and deputy ministers must be present and must vote with the coalition.

3. OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevy Farkash briefed ministers on current joint intelligence issues including the Palestinians, the situation in the north and Iraq.

4. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on joint security matters, and said that the situation in the field continues to be characterized by a difficult struggle between terrorists and Israel, in which the terror organizations are making significant efforts to perpetrate terror attacks in Israel and the territories, while Israel works to thwart and prevent them. The Palestinian areas are characterized by a state of anarchy and lack of control;

The Defense Minister noted that the leaders of the G-8 had expressed their support for the plan and that the US has said that is prepared to help in advancing the plan.  Defense Minister Mofaz added that Egypt is fulfilling an active role in stabilizing the security situation, has presented Arafat with a concrete list of demands on this matter, and is also putting pressure on Hamas.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that he had agreed upon the joint working security group with the head of Egyptian intelligence.  Furthermore, there is a strong desire by Fatah elements to take advantage of the disengagement plan in order to weaken Hamas.

The Defense Minister commented on the situation in the north in light of the recent actions to heat up the border, which began on 7.6.04 with the launching of six rockets at an Israeli navy ship in the area of Rosh Hanikra, in Israeli territory.  In light of this, Israel sought to send a message to the Lebanese reminding them of their responsibility for all terror originating from their territory, and therefore Israel attacked a PFLP-Jibril military camp not far from Beirut. Hizbullah then opened fire on an IDF outpost on Mt. Dov; Israel responded with artillery fire.  Israel reiterates that it will not tolerate a situation in which it is provoked and attacked on a regular basis, and the responsible parties will be held accountable.

4. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on current diplomatic affairs, and discussed his trip to Egypt during which he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his diplomatic advisors and the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that his meetings focused on security issues in Gaza, and on bilateral cooperation.  The Foreign Minister said that he believed that Egypt had made a strategic decision to improve and foster warmer relations with Israel, and noted that Egypt had praised Prime Minister Sharon’s decision on the disengagement plan and expressed its dedication to aid in implementing it in every possible way.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that following instructions from Prime Minister Sharon, he had agreed with the Egyptians on an increased number of Egyptian border police forces in the Philadelphia corridor in order to fight the building of tunnels and smuggling.  In addition, the Foreign Minister said that the Egyptians were prepared to help in the war against terror, which threatens them as well, and regtarding the advancement of the disengagement plan.

The Foreign Minister commented on the international reaction to the modified disengagement plan, which was received positively in both the US and Europe. The Foreign Minister said that representatives of the US administration in Washington had repeated strong messages that Israel must fulfill its obligations to evacuate outposts, fixing settlement borders and ease humanitarian conditions in the territories.

5. The cabinet discussed the recommendations of the ministerial committee headed by Justice Minister Joseph Tommy Lapid, on the report of the State Commission of Inquiry (the Orr Commission) into the clashes between security forces and Israeli citizens in October 2000.

Justice Minister Lapid said that the committee believes that Israel is obligated to make a normative change in relations between Jews and Arabs, with the recognition of the every group of people to be different from their neighbors, i.e. that Arab citizens must not be prevented from expressing their culture and identity.  The government’s policy is to reach real equality in rights and obligations among citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, as soon as possible.

The Justice Minister noted that the majority of the Arab public upholds law and order.  The decisive majority of Israeli Arab citizens accepts the rules of democracy and aims to be part of Israeli society.  It is the right of Arabs who are Israeli citizens, like all other Israeli citizens, to demonstrate and to protest in the framework of the law, while observing the law.

However, the plight of Israel’s Arab citizens, as it came to light in the Orr Commission report, does not, in any way, justify the violence initiated by a group of Israeli Arabs in October 2000.

No support, direct or indirect, can be given to Palestinian terrorist organizations which spill the blood of Israelis civilians, including Arabs. Israel will not tolerate incitement to, organizing for, or the perpetration of, violence, riots and planned uprisings against the state and its institutions.

The committee believes that implementation of its recommendations will be an important contribution to removing the tension which caused the tragic events of October 2000, while retaining the State of Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.

The Cabinet approved the aforementioned recommendations, including (inter

* The establishment of a government authority for the advancement of minority sectors to deal with the unique problems of these sectors vis-?-vis planning and construction, budgets, anti-discrimination and fair representation in the civil service, education and integration.

* A call to Arab sector leaders to cooperate with the government’s efforts to promote equality between sectors, while the government does its utmost to assure the personal and communal rights of Israeli Arabs.  Emphasis will be placed on Jews and Arabs taking an active part in the rehabilitation of inter-sectoral relations following the trauma of October 2000.

* The integration of Israeli Arabs in a national civilian service framework, which will encompass those citizens who are not called to military service. The government will also encourage possibities of expanding the circle of Israeli Arabs who volunteer for the IDF and the Israel Police.

* The Interior Minister and the Israel Lands Authority will cooperate with Arab local councils in promoting and/or completing master plans for those Arab communities that lack them.

* Youth in Israel will be encouraged to study and learn about the various sectors and communities that make up Israeli society, with emphases on differences in customs, leadership, language and culture, etc. on the one hand and the equality of citizenship as Israelis.

It was also proposed that the Cabinet call on Israeli Arab leaders to refrain from incitement against the state and its institutions; to condemn both incitement that could lead to violence and acts of violence themselves; to refrain from using illegal methods to promote their interests; to avoid blurring the boundary between links to the Palestinian residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and messages that do not jibe with the loyalty that all citizens must have to the state; to develop a civic awareness among Israeli Arab youth, while stressing the enforcement of local bylaws, especially regarding construction and the collection of municipal rates; to encourage Israeli Arabs to participate in the civil service and the Civil Guard; and to contribute to improving the atmosphere between Arabs and Jews via culrural, social and educational cooperation, especially among the youth.