(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 4 July, 2004:

1. In accordance with Basic Law: The Government the Cabinet decided that Minister Meir Sheetrit will fill the position of Transport Minister, Minister Gideon Ezra will fill the position of Tourism Minister, and that Minister Tzipi Livni will fill the position of Construction and Housing Minister.

The Cabinet will inform the Knesset of these decisions.

2. Prime Minister Sharon said, regarding last week’s High Court of Justice decision on the security fence that, “There are two sides to the ruling: one – a discussion of the petitioners’ claims, which in reality are the same as the claims brought against Israel in the International Court in the Hague; and the second – examining specific parts of the fence’s route where it is claimed that it is excessively disturbing the Palestinian population.

In every matter relating to the first, and principle issue, I would like to express satisfaction over the important determination of the fence’s overall legal status; the High Court of Justice’s decision explicitly established that the fence is being constructed for security and not political considerations; the High Court of Justice rejected the petitioners claims that building the fence is a process of annexation, which is prohibited according to international law; the High Court of Justice established that the fence fills a real security need resulting from Israel’s need to defend itself, and that the route will express this without any connection to the Green Line.  The Court’s decision also established that it is possible to seize Palestinian land in order to build the fence and where necessary, there is no way to avoid a situation where the fence divides Palestinian residents from their land.

These are the principles that I see as having major significance.

The second aspect of the High Court of Justice’s decision deals with several sections of the fence.  After careful examination of those sections and the circumstances under which they were planned, the High Court of Justice found that certain areas will cause excessive harm to Palestinian residents in relation to security considerations in those particular areas.  Therefore, the High Court of Justice instructed that alternative routes or other solutions be found which will reduce the damage to the standard of living for the Palestinian residents.

I would like to clarify, that I have no intention of supporting any kind of legislative – or other – process that would lead to evading carrying out the dictates of a court verdict.  That is not the way of a law-abiding government, which is obligated to completely observe the rulings of Israel’s High Court of Justice.  Furthermore, the ruling, in its general context, is an authorized and important legal response to the juridical libel that is being built against us at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. When considering the high esteem in which the High Court of Justice is held among the international legal community, I am sure that the explicit legal determinations of this ruling will greatly help us in the expected diplomatic battle against the State of Israel.

I am aware, of course, of the claims by the security establishment that it is possible that the High Court of Justice was severe in its rulings on specific areas of the fence, but we are obligated to fully observe the Court ’s ruling.  I am sure that if, after a fundamental examination of the situation at hand is carried out, no other solution is found that is satisfactory to the security establishment, the Supreme Court will approve those routes.

I have therefore instructed the security establishment to act together with the Attorney General and the State Prosecutor’ Office to review those parts that were rejected, as well as other sections which are likely to be rejected according to the criteria set out in the ruling.  Their work will be completed in a few weeks.  In the meantime I have instructed that construction of the fence continue without delay in all those areas where there is no legal doubt.”

Attorney General Meni Mazuz thanked Prime Minister Sharon for the latter’s comments and said that the legal ruling has significant ramifications for the continuation of the building of the fence.

3. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on joint security matters and said that there has been a recent upsurge in the efforts of the terrorist organizations to perpetrate terror attacks, principally in the Gaza Strip.  The security establishment thwarted 23 terror attacks last month.  The increased efforts of the terrorist organizations were seen in the explosion underneath the Orhan outpost, in the launching of a series of Kassam rockets at Israeli territory, principally against Sderot, and in this morning ’s shooting attack in which one Israeli man was murdered.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that he has instructed the IDF and the security establishment to make every effort to stop the launching of Kassam rockets against Israel and to reduce the level of terror in the Gaza Strip.

The Defense Minister noted that in their counter-terrorism efforts, the security forces have succeeded in thwarting a number of terror attacks against communities in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and a suicide attack planned by the Nablus Tanzim.  Furthermore, many fugitives were arrested in Jericho which had become a safe refuge for terrorists.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that the security establishment would respect and implement the High Court of Justice’s decision, that it has begun planning alternative routes and that it will attempt to stand by the original timetable despite the loss of time due to the legal proceedings.

4. ISA Director Avi Dichter briefed ministers on security issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and discussed the problem of Jewish extremists who espouse violence.  The ISA Director emphasized the dangers of this phenomenon.

5. The Cabinet discussed various issues regarding assistance to communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.  The Cabinet determined that the State of Israel has a strategic interest in retaining the strength of this belt of communities.  Therefore the State has a clear interest in aiding these communities given the security difficulties they have faced until today, and may face in the future.  The State must also act to strengthen these communities economically and socially.

To this end, the Cabinet approved the plan detailed below.  The plan grants communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, including the greater Sderot area, “increased preference” in the areas of education, health, welfare, trade and industry, and will also strengthen the local authorities in the region, with an emphasis on improving municipal services available to residents.

The Cabinet has identified two areas for action.  The first is intended to provide an immediate answer to the security situation that has been created there by financing additional costs that have been incurred due to the situation.  In addition, direct aid will be given via reductions on local taxes.

For further details see: The Prime Minister’s Office.