(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 27 June, 2004:

1. Prime Minister Sharon eulogized Naomi Shemer, who passed away yesterday.

2. Prime Minister Sharon praised the paratroopers’ accomplishment in their operation in Nablus yesterday and said that this was a unique achievement in the war against terror.  This is an additional layer in the wave of recent successes by the security forces. The Prime Minister said that he spoke with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon and other senior IDF officers and thanked them for the successful operation.

3. The Prime Minister commented on the US House of Representatives’ and US Senate’s decisions to adopt and approve the principles of US President Bush’s letter of April 14, 2004.  Prime Minister Sharon said that this was a significant achievement and an unprecedented expression of the depth of the relationship, friendship, support and understanding between the US and Israel.  The US has expressed complete support for the State of Israel, for its right to self-defense and to fight against terror, including the necessity to act against terror, to dismantle terrorist infrastructure, to retain its deterrent power against any threat wherever it may originate from, and recognition of Israel’s right to secure, defensible and recognized borders.

The US supports the Israeli position on two critical issues, which will form the final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians:

* Due to the situation on the ground, includin main Israeli settlement blocs, there will be no return to the 1949 armistice lines.

* There will be no right of return for Palestinians to Israel, and the issue of Palestinian refugees will be resolved through the establishment of a Palestinian State, which will absorb them.

4. The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, headed by Dennis Ross, Avinoam Bar Yosef and Professors Yehezkel Dror and Sergio Della Pargola, briefed ministers on the state of the Jewish people in 2004.  The Prime Minister thanked Dennis Ross and everyone working at the institute for their efforts and important work they were doing for the entire Jewish people.  The project includes detailed information on the current state of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora as well as recommendations and proposals to form a new strategic agenda for the Jewish people – which will meet the challenges and situation that the Jewish people are currently faced with.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel is responsible for the fate of the Jewish people the world over, and that it is only possible to live as a Jew in Israel.  Immigration to Israel is a primary goal for the State and it will establish its future security and economic policies, as well as the future of the Jewish people.

5. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters and noted that there was a continued decline in the level of terror, which has come about as the result of vigorous, continuous and intensive efforts by the security forces, which have placed continuous pressure on the main terror organizations through arrests and the thwarting of terror attacks; striking at the leadership, and centers, of terrorism; and the cumulative effect of the security fence.  Defense Minister Mofaz said that Israel cannot rest and that it is essential to continue to exert pressure on the terrorists and those who finance them.

Defense Minister Mofaz announced that a bilateral security committee would be set up which will examine the various issues relating to Egyptian involvement in security for the Gaza Strip.  In addition, the security establishment has stepped up its preparations ahead of disengagement.

Defense Minister Mofaz also discussed the situation on the northern border where there have been further tensions in the wake of Hezbollah provocations.

The Defense Minister announced that “Logol” tablets would be distributed to those citizens living near nuclear research centers, in keeping with common practice around the world.  Defense Minister Mofaz emphasized that this decision does not reflect any concern whatsoever over the safety of Israel’s nuclear research centers.

6. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on ongoing diplomatic matters and said that since the disengagement plan had been adopted by the Israeli government it had also been embraced by the international community. The Foreign Minister said that Israel was working diligently to channel international support to areas important to it such as increasing activities with Egypt and Jordan in the economic and humanitarian spheres, and increasing cooperation with donating communities.

Foreign Minister Shalom discussed his meeting with the head of Egyptian intelligence, who gave him details for the security reforms and timetable the latter had put to Arafat.

The Foreign Minister also commented on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which is due to publish its opinion on the security fence on 9 July, 2004, and on the UN conference on anti-Semitism.