(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 11 July, 2004:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following remarks at the start of the meeting:

“Just over one hour ago, an Israeli woman was murdered by criminal Palestinian terrorists and additional civilians were wounded.  We all pray for their recovery.  This morning’s act of murder is the first to have occurred under the auspices of the opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.  On Friday, the sacred right of the war on terrorism received a slap in the face by the ICJ in The Hague, after it decided that the terrorism-prevention fence is illegal and that Israel must dismantle it.

I want to make it clear: The State of Israel completely rejects the ICJ’s opinion.  This is a one-sided opinion based solely on political considerations.  The opinion completely ignores the reason for the construction of the security fence – murderous Palestinian terrorism.  It deals only with the Israeli response – the construction of the fence, which is the most reasonable means in the face of this despicable terrorism.

But what the ICJ judges refused to see, the Palestinians quickly showed them this morning – murder and the wounding of innocent civilians.  It is not for nothing that the Palestinians are struggling against the fence.  They know full well that the completion of the fence will make it very difficult for them to continue perpetrating acts of murder.

The opinion sends a deadly message that encourages terror on the one hand and prevents countries from protecting themselves against it on the other. Today, all who fear the spread of terror must stand alongside Israel in demanding that this immoral and dangerous opinion pass from the world.  All civilized people for whom standing against terror is important must stand alongside Israel and disavow both the opinion and its dangerous significance.”

2. The cabinet considered the procedure for converting to Judaism, which is carried out through a number of different ministries.  In order to advance the conversion issue, the cabinet adopted the following decisions:

In accordance with Basic Law: The Government, to transfer the rabbinical conversion court unit from the Justice Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office.

In accordance with a request from the Chief Rabbi/the President of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, the rabbinical conversion court unit’s place within the Prime Minister’s Office will be examined and determined in coordination of the director of the conversion process, the Director-General of the Chief Rabbinate and the Cabinet Secretary.

The responsibilities given to the administrator of the rabbinical courts will be given to the director of the conversion process.

The budget for the special rabbinical conversion courts and their personnel will be transferred from the Justice Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office.

3. The Cabinet authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to discuss and approve a draft law providing for voluntary national service for men.  There will be a trial plan in which men who have received an exemption from the IDF will be able to participate in a national service for men.  The period of time allocated has been extended to 31 August, 2004.

4. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior Finance Ministry officials briefed ministers on Israel’s economic situation and presented a macro-economic plan ahead of the 2005 budget.

The government began a series of discussions on the 2005 state budget and economic policy for 2005.

Bank of Israel Governor David Klein presented his ideas vis-?-vis the government’s future economic and social policy and discussed an action plan the government should adopt in order to reach its aims.

Prime Minister Sharon said: “We have succeeded in reaching our aims we set for ourselves in moving from recession to growth – this is a great achievement.  I see great importance in continuing with this economic policy in 2005 in order to encourage growth and sustain the public’s trust.

At the same time, our policies must not be viewed as indiscriminately harming the weaker members of society.  Therefore we have to distinguish between those who can go out to work, and who should be encouraged and given incentives to do so, and those weaker populations who cannot work (severely disabled, elderly, children at risk), who must not be harmed and who should receive assistance.

I met with the Finance Minister and his team last week, and I told them that I support the continuation of our economic policy.  In addition, I defined several national goals, which must receive attention in the 2005 budget: Assuring the quality of our future generations (education), encourage immigration to Israel, advancing the minority populations in Israel, with an emphasis on resolving the Bedouin issue, and strengthening Jerusalem.

I also made it clear that the means necessary to implement the disengagement plan and the continuation of the fence must be earmarked in the 2005  budget.”