(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday (Sunday), 18 July 2004:

1. Prime Minister Sharon recalled the terrorist bombing of a Jewish community building in Argentina, 10 years ago and said: “Today, exactly 10 years ago, at 09:00), outside the AMIA building, the Argentine Jewish community building, a car bomb exploded with a suicide terrorist inside.

"This was a murderous and atrocious attack, which was aimed at harming Jews, solely because they were Jews. This attack took 85 lives, 230 people were wounded – Argentine civilians, Jews and non-Jews. So many lives were cut short by the power of the blast. The Jewish community building collapsed and with it, buildings close to it – a witness to the cruelty of terror, whose initiators and perpetrators still walk freely.

"The government of Israel expresses its condolences today, to the bereaved families and empathizes with those injured and with the entire Argentine Jewish community.

"The community will today mark a decade since this terrible attack, with a special ceremony in Buenos Aires. Israel praises Argentinean President Nestor Kirshner, on his decision to attend the ceremony and sees this as another signal of the good relations enjoyed by the community in Argentina, and of the Argentinean government’s commitment to fully investigate the circumstances of the attack, to root out those responsible and to bring them to justice.

"There can be no forgiveness and no atonement for those people that perpetrated this atrocious act or to the terrorists, who are connected to international terror organizations and are instructed by extremist governments.

"During the course of the day, a ministerial committee will be assembled, headed by Minister Sharansky, which will discuss ways in which the State of Israel can immortalize this terrible attack at the AMIA.

"Israel continues to act decisively against terror directed against the Jewish People and the State of Israel and remains committed to remembering every victim who fell in these terrible acts.”

Minister Sharansky briefed the government on his visit to Argentina and on his talks there, including the matter of the local government’s investigation in the wake of the attack.

2. The Cabinet approved Prime Minister Sharon’s proposal to change the allocation of portfolios as follows: In accordance with Basic Law: The Government, Minister Eliezer Sandberg will be appointed Minister of National Infrastructure and MK Ilan Shalgi as Minister for Science and Technology.

3. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on joint security matters, noted that Israel’s pressure on the foci of terror is having an effect, and added that the Palestinian population is showing fatigue, thus adding to the pressure on the terror organizations. At the same time, the hard core of people who continue to engage in terror is increasing their efforts to attack Israel.

The level of warnings and efforts to perpetrate attacks have increased. The Defense Minister discussed the political crisis in the Palestinian Authority (PA), in which Arafat is still trying to create the illusion of reforms, but in reality none has been carried out.

Anarchy continues to reign on the Palestinian side. Defense Minister Mofaz detailed the principal events in the PA and discussed their significance. At the same time, the Defense Minister commented on Israel’s fight against terror and emphasized that Israel’s policy is one of applying continuous pressure on the foci of terror, and establishing as much as possible a policy of differentiating between terror and those innocent members of the population. Israel is successfully implementing this policy in Judea and Samaria with recognizable results.

Defense Minister Mofaz added that despite the International Court of Justice’s decision, the security fence will continue to be built, while ensuring that the route is in accordance with the principles laid down by the Israeli High Court of Justice.

4. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on diplomatic issues while focusing on the situation in the PA, the security fence and UN proceedings on the matter. The Palestinians are attempting to divert the current international agenda away from the efforts to renew the diplomatic process, the demands for reform and the war against terror.

Foreign Minister Shalom noted that the US is acting to stop the Palestinian moves, and is working to express its reservations on the events that led to the ICJ decision.

Foreign Minister Shalom briefed ministers on his recent visit to the US including his meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and with the congressional leaders from both parties.

Foreign Minister Shalom noted that it was his impression – from his talks and contacts – that there was very broad international support for the Disengagement Plan and a very strong desire, especially by the Europeans and the UN, to be involved in efforts on the ground in order to ensure its success.

Foreign Minister Shalom discussed the crisis with New Zealand and said that he regrets both New Zealand’s decision and the situation in which bilateral relations have become stuck. He said that Israel would vigorously act in order to restore proper bilateral relations.

5. Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert briefed ministers on the details of his visit to Europe and Turkey.

6. The Cabinet decided to extend by six months, to 5 February 2005, the validity of the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law and to submit the extension to a Knesset vote.

The Cabinet also decided that the Interior Ministry, in coordination with the Justice Ministry, will draft amendments to the law that will expand the restrictions on applying the law to various additional groups that constitute a known security risk.

The law took effect in August 2003 and was legislated in accordance with a Cabinet decision regarding persons illegally in Israel and family unification regarding PA residents and foreign nationals of Palestinian origin.

In the past year, security officials have assessed the situation vis-a-vis the prevailing security reality and suggested that the continued validity of the law is vital. Accordingly, the Cabinet has decided to extend it by six months.

ISA Director Avi Dichter briefed ministers on security aspects of the issue of family unification with PA residents and noted the involvement in terrorism of those who have received family unification permits.