(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 5 September 2004:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon commented on the massacre perpetrated by terrorists in North Ossetian city of Beslan and said: “Last Friday, the entire world was shocked by the horrific massacre that was perpetrated by terrorists in Russia.  It has been proven again that terrorism does not distinguish between blood and blood, between adults and children.  Israel, which has been struggling against terrorism for many years, stands alongside the Russian people and sends its condolences. There is no justification for terrorism and this is the time for the free, just and humanitarian world to unite and fight this horrific plague, which acknowledges neither borders nor limitations.”

2. The Cabinet approved Prime Minister Sharon’s proposal regarding the following reallocation of ministerial portfolios:

Transportation Minister Meir Shetrit will also serve as the minister responsible for liaison between the Government and the Knesset, instead of Minister Gideon Ezra.  This decision will be submitted for Knesset approval, as required by law.

Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra will also serve as acting Public Security Minister; as such, he will be a member of the Ministerial Committee on National Security.

3. The Cabinet marked today’s 50th anniversary of the founding of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority by holding a special discussion on Yad Vashem’s roles and missions.  The Cabinet noted that Yad Vashem would – in 2005 – complete a comprehensive development project and dedicate a new museum.

In light of the anniversary and in appreciation of Yad Vashem’s role in preserving the memory of the Holocaust and the Resistance, the Cabinet praised Yad Vashem’s work in dealing with the basic questions of Jewish and Israeli identity, with the struggle against anti-Semitism and with the responsibilities the Jewish People has assigned to it.

On the occasion of the debut of the computerized database of Holocaust victims on the Internet, the Government of Israel appeals to people in Israel and the Diaspora to join this initiative of the Jewish People, which is being led by Yad Vashem, in the redemption of additional names.  The Cabinet calls on the entire Jewish People to send data on names to Yad Vashem.

The Cabinet was briefed by Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. Approximately 100,000 students and young people, and 50,000 soldiers and commanders, are expected to participate in Yad Vashem seminars this year. Approximately 1,000 Israeli teachers, as well as 600 educators from around the world, will attend Yad Vashem courses on teaching the Holocaust.

4. The Cabinet approved the appointment of Yitzhak Balak as the Director of the Interior Ministry Local Authority Administration.  He was born in 1948, is married, the father of three children and is deeply familiar with local authority administration.  He has held various Interior Ministry and local administration posts.

5. Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Cabinet that its decision of approximately 1.5 years ago to take the Histadrut’s older pension funds away from the Histadrut and place them under professional management was completed last Friday, upon their transfer to the private market.  Finance Minister Netanyahu said that Israel had done something unprecedented in the world.

6. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on various security and diplomatic issues from the past week. Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the 31 August 2004 double suicide bombing in Be’er Sheva in which 16 people were murdered and 90 were wounded.  Following the bombing, Hebron and its environs were cordoned off, the terrorists’ homes were demolished, and Hamas terrorists in Hebron were detained.  The Defense Minister also discussed the 31 August 2004 thwarting at Erez checkpoint of an attempt to infiltrate an explosive belt into Israel in order to perpetrate a serious terrorist attack. Erez checkpoint was closed to the transit of workers from Gaza into Israel.  An attempt to perpetrate a terrorist attack at Kfar Darom by means of an explosives-filled tunnel was thwarted on 2 September 2004.  The firing of Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip was resumed last Friday after a weeklong lull.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that despite the round of meetings between Arafat and Dahlan and other pressure on Arafat, it seems that Arafat is continuing to avoid making significant decisions that might impair his position.

The security prisoners’ strike ended 2.5 weeks after it began, without achievements for the prisoners who won little support on the “Palestinian street.”

7. Foreign Minister Shalom briefed ministers on the disaster which befell the residents of the North Ossetian city of Beslan and said that the terrorism which was striking Russia is the same terrorism that struck Bali, Mombasa, Istanbul and Be’er Sheva.  Regarding the security prisoners’ strike, Foreign Minister Shalom said that the Palestinian Authority had focused its actions regarding it in the international sphere in an effort to force unnecessary and dangerous international intervention on Israel. Israel rejected Arab attempts in Geneva to convene a special session of Human Rights Committee and to dispatch an inquiry to the area.  The Palestinians are constantly trying to internationalize the conflict in various international forums instead of doing what is necessary on the ground.  The PA is also working to wreck the upcoming 23 September 2004 meeting of donor countries in New York by postponing it.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that Israel welcomes the recent UN Security Council resolution that calls on Syria to evacuate Lebanon. He said that Israel sees this decision as an important step on the way towards ending the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and Damascus’s exploitation of Lebanon for the benefit of terrorism against Israel.  The Foreign Minister emphasized that it seems that the international community has tired of Syria’s crude attempts to install a puppet government in Beirut.  As to Lebanon itself, Israel is convinced that it is possible to reach a peace agreement with it once it is free of Syrian control.

Regarding the murderous terrorist attack in Be’er Sheva, Foreign Minister Shalom said that many of his colleagues had condemned the double bombing and had sent condolences to the families of the victims and best wishes for a speedy recovery to the families of the wounded.  Europe is currently considering how to prepare for future diplomatic challenges in the Middle East out of a desire to influence events in the region, which is fast becoming a major strategic challenge for Europe in the current period.  It seems that the Europeans understand that extremist forces in the region threaten major interests.  Regarding the Palestinian arena, the Europeans have made clear their desire to contribute to the success of the disengagement plan.

Foreign Minister Shalom briefed ministers on the decision of the non-aligned countries regarding Israel and said that following Foreign Ministry activity, members of the non-aligned group have begun to issue reservations over the “Palestine Declaration” which was issued last month at their meeting in Durban, South Africa, and which calls for the imposition of sanctions on Israel and Israeli tourists who reside in the territories. Members of the non-aligned group have made it clear in conversations with Israeli diplomats that they have no intention of implementing the aforementioned declaration.

Prime Minister Sharon said that it is Israel’s clear position that its current diplomatic plan is the disengagement plan.  It will be possible to implement the Roadmap only after a complete cessation of terrorism, violence and incitement, the disarming of the terrorist organizations and the implementation of the reforms that the Palestinians have promised to enact.

8. Prime Minister Sharon announced that in accordance with the decision of the Ministerial Committee on the Non-Jewish Sector, a staff was currently being set up to coordinate, implement, supervise and oversee the Government’ s actions in the Bedouin sector in the south.  The Prime Minister stressed that he attributes great importance to solving the problems and the plight of the Bedouin sector in the Negev.

Former Central District Police Commander Yehuda Becher will head the staff, which will also include representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office; the Finance; Interior; Education, Culture and Sports; Transportation; National Infrastructures; Justice; Industry, Trade and Employment; Public Security; Defense and Agriculture and Rural Development ministries, the National Security Council and the Authority on Bedouin Advancement.