(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 1 August 2004:

1. The Cabinet, in accordance with the Civil Service Law, appointed Eran Shendar as State Prosecutor.  The appointment is valid for six years from today.

2. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 1982 Communications Law (Bezek and Broadcasting) and upon Communications Minister Ehud Olmert’s recommendation, appointed Maya Alon-Goren as Finance Ministry representative, in place of Haim Fernandez, and Na’ama Henig as Communications Ministry representative, for an additional term as members of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council.

3. At the beginning of July, the Cabinet approved the giving of extra aid to communities whose houses are within 6km of the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip, for the years 2004-2006.  Prime Minister Sharon directed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to enquire regarding hits on communities further away.  In light of investigations by the Defense Minister, the Cabinet decided to increase the aforementioned range to 7km.

4. The Cabinet approved Prime Minister Sharon’s proposal to set up a framework in which primary school pupils who have a long school day will receive meals.  The project will commence from the beginning of the coming school year, starting 10 October 2004, and will continue for three years.

A steering committee – headed by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen – will be created for the project.  The Education, Culture and Sport Ministry will supervise the project; the Health Ministry will set the menus.

The project will cost NIS 180 million per year for the approximately 154,000 children who have a long school day and will be jointly funded by the state budget, a non-profit association and local authorities (by their consent).

The Cabinet will support MK Ruhama Avraham’s draft law on the issue.  Prime Minister Sharon has instructed the Finance Ministry to allocate NIS 50 million so that children will be able to enjoy a meal at school already this year. Prime Minister Sharon thanked aforementioned non-profit association for its central role in this project.

5. Ministers continued their discussions ahead of the approval of the 2005 budget, were briefed on the economic situation and received a macro-economic forecast.

The Prime Minister said that the upcoming budget will match growth targets set down by the government, but at the same time will be humanitarian.  The four central aims which the Finance Ministry were instructed to follow were:

  •  Advancing social goals: Increased funds will be budgeted for weaker strata and the elderly; the Dovrat Report will be implemented; immigration absorption will be strengthened and funds will be allocated to strengthen the periphery.
  • Advancing the government’s diplomatic-security goals: The disengagement plan will be implemented and construction of the security fence will continue.
  • Advancing economic reforms and continuing the macro-economic policy.
  • Advancing employment goals in Israel.

Ministers were briefed on the 2005 economic plan regarding the main proposed structural changes in the economy including increasing employment; increasing competition and privatization; implementing reform in the electricity market; decentralizing and privatizing refineries; changes in lands policy and planning; continuing to establish water and sewage corporations; licensing to a fifth private HMO; deregulating the water and electricity markets; changing the communications market; reforms to encourage capital investments; making public services more efficient, including cutbacks in personnel, privatization and incentives to merge local authorities; making agricultural training more efficient and reforming medical negligence claims.

6. Defense Minister Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on security and diplomatic matters.

The Defense Minister commented on the crisis in the Palestinian Authority and on the increased efforts by hardcore terrorists to perpetrate attacks in Israel.

The Defense Minister said that in the light of their failure to perpetrate terror attacks, the use of high-trajectory weapons has increased, causing injuries in Neve Dekalim.  The security establishment has been successfully acting to thwart these attacks.

The Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the terrorist attack in Uzbekistan in which a local security guard and policeman were murdered.

The Defense Minister also noted that Nasrallah had for the first time, publicly admitted that Hizbullah is aiding Palestinian terror, and that this announcement had led to tension with the Lebanese government and public.

Defense Minister Mofaz commented on the successful test of the Arrow weapon, which took place in the US, and said it was an historic, long-term, strategic achievement that strengthens Israel’s deterrent power.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom discussed the Foreign Ministry’s actions in connection with the Tashkent terror attack, the situation in the Palestinian Authority and the wave of kidnappings in the PA areas, which illustrate the anarchic situation there.

The Foreign Minister said that Arafat’s family is managing a campaign the goal of which is to bring chaos to the region.  His nephew, Musa Arafat, is busy with this in Gaza, and a cousin is working to this end at the UN.

Foreign Minister Shalom discussed the humanitarian tragedy in Sudan and the UN Security Council’s decision on the matter.

The Foreign Minister also related to the US Democratic Party convention which recently nominated US Senator John Kerry as its candidate for President.

Foreign Minister Shalom noted that the Democratic Party platform includes, inter alia, references to the strategic relationship between the US and Israel:

“The Democratic Party is fundamentally committed to the security of our ally Israel…Our special relationship with Israel is based on the unshakeable foundation of shared values and a mutual commitment to democracy and we will assure that under all circumstances, Israel retains the qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense.  Jerusalem is its capital and should remain an undivided city…The creation of a Palestinian state should solve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there rather than in Israel…it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” 

7. Minister Natan Sharansky briefed ministers on the battle against anti-Semitism in Europe, and noted that the French broadcasting authority, upon the recommendation of the French government, had blocked anti-Semitic broadcasts on the Al-Manar station.