(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

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

1. Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi and the Tel Aviv District Police Commander briefed ministers on the resolution of the case of the murder of Judge Adi Azar.  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: “This incident, was a terrible – both as the murder of a human being and as an attack on the judge. I must say, that the very thought of attacking a judge in order to achieve a certain advantage, is extremely serious and terrible in itself. I want to thank you, and everyone who worked to uncover the truth regarding this terrible event. I would also like to thank the Minister for Public Security for the steps that he took regarding the future. The war against crime must continue without respite. You have made major achievements. But we must not relax our grip. We must fight crime, and criminal organizations with the utmost intensity. You deal with a large number of fields, but your success will definitely be measured by these achievements. You made a major achievement here, I thank you and would like to thank all those involved – I understand there were hundreds. Please thank them in our name, and continue with your efforts and be successful. You have much work to do. Thank you.”

2. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters, on developments in the Palestinian sphere, in the region, and in the international arena. The Defense Minister noted that Abu Mazen is continuing to focus on efforts to stabilize the Palestinian Authority (PA), and establish himself ahead of the PA presidential elections. In this framework, the process for approving him as Fatah’s presidential candidate was completed last week. Barghouti’s decision to put himself forward as an independent has raised strong criticism from many Fatah sectors, as well as from external sources, which have been strong in their support of Abu Mazen. As part of the efforts to strengthen Abu Mazen’s position, Abu Ala, Abu Mazen and Rouhi Fattouh visited Egypt, and they are also planning to visit Damascus this week.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that the first round of municipal elections are expected to take place in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip on 23 December 2004, and this is expected to be a test of the PA’s organizational capabilities ahead of the elections for PA Chairman, due to take place on 9 January 2005. The Defense Minister focused on the central points for the security establishment, vis-a-vis the Disengagement Plan – regarding which he has instructed the IDF to continue its staff work ahead of the July 2005 implementation date. In addition, there will be an absence of interference in the internal procedures in the Palestinian Authority – while at the same time, continuing the policy of gradually easing conditions for the Palestinian population; the security establishment will make special preparations ahead of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem and for the local and presidential elections – with the aim that these events should take place without disturbances.

Against this background, it is Israel’s desire and expectation that a “new reality” will develop in the Palestinian sphere, in the post-Arafat era. At the same time, the war against terrorism continues, and will continue. Despite the reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in recent weeks, there have been a large number of warnings, similar to those before Arafat’s death. In addition, attempts to perpetrate horrific attacks continue. Mortar fire against Gaza communities continues, although there has been a reduction. Therefore, the Defense Minister has instructed the IDF to continue with its efforts to prevent mortar fire and to provide maximum security for Gush Katif and the Gaza communities.

Attempts to prevent and thwart terrorist attacks continue. In the framework of efforts to distinguish between the war against terrorism and avoiding harm to the Palestinian population, the security establishment is continuing in its policy of gradually easing conditions by expanding the scope in which permits are given to travel between Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and to Israel.

Defense Minister Mofaz emphasized that the conditions have been eased despite warnings regarding terrorist attacks due to the desire to help the Palestinian leadership create a “new reality” in the aftermath of Arafat’s death.

The Defense Minister also commented on the contacts between Israel and Egypt, which are designed to advance the Disengagement Plan. Defense Minister Mofaz met with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Soliman; the discussions focused on the stationing of Egyptian border units along the Philadelphia corridor; searching for IDF missing soldiers in Egypt; a real-time coordination mechanism between the IDF and Egyptian forces, cooperation in the war against terrorism and dealing with weapons smuggling.

Defense Minister Mofaz also discussed the north – Syria and Lebanon – as well as his visits to Poland and Italy and his meetings there.

3. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on current diplomatic matters and said that he participated in a bi-annual meeting of the Barcelona process foreign ministers, which includes Mediterranean Europe, and in which Israel is grouped with 25 European foreign ministers and 10 Mediterranean countries including Syria and Lebanon. Foreign Minister Shalom said that this was the most constructive meeting in many years.  The Foreign Ministry acted before the meeting, with the EU presidency and demanded that in light of regional changes and the joint interest to assure calm ahead of the PA elections, Europe is obliged to insure that the Arab side would act with restraint.

Foreign Minister Shalom met with his Jordanian, Tunisian, Mauritanian and Turkish counterparts for bilateral talks, and met with a long list of European ministers. The Foreign Minister was congratulated by all for the Israeli government’s responsible leadership in this sensitive period, and for its readiness and desire to return to the diplomatic process. Through European statements it was possible to see that Europe understand more than ever the centrality of the need for the Palestinians to fight terrorism and implement reforms, especially in the financial and security spheres. Foreign Minister Shalom reiterated that Israel was willing to do everything in order to ensure that the PA elections run smoothly, while ensuring the security of Israeli civilians and Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Shalom added that he met with representatives of the donors countries to the PA and requested two main things: Transparency for the new situation created in the region and prevention of politicization, and continuation of support for the PA, with emphasis that their involvement in the development of the Palestinian economy is important and specifically welcome at this time. The Foreign Minister noted that a number of countries are already prepared to give financial aid to the PA. The US administration is acting to approve allocation of $20 million, which will be used to pay debts to companies, including Israeli companies.

The Foreign Minister noted that the first European inspectors arrived this week for the elections and added that they have been assured of full cooperation from the Foreign Ministry. The inspection team will concentrate around Ramallah and Gaza, and is due to include people from Canada, Switzerland and Norway. The team will be comprised of a total of 250 people and will be headed by former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard.  n addition, inspectors from the US, Russia, Japan and a number of other countries are expected to arrive. Israel will, of course, make every effort to aid them.

Foreign Minister Shalom noted that despite the new situation, no change has been felt from the Palestinian side at the United Nations; their behavior in this forum will be one of the serious tests of whether anything has really changed.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that the visit last week by the Egyptian foreign and intelligence ministers was indeed successful.  During the meeting Foreign Minister Shalom said that the new atmosphere in the region must result in an improvement of bilateral relations; Foreign Minister Shalom said that Egyptian media incitement against Israel, as well as damaging comments by senior Egyptian officials, must stop. The Egyptians promised to work to improve the atmosphere.

The Foreign Minister commented on Iran and its nuclear program, which is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), emphasized that Israel shares Europe’s desire to bring an end to the Iranian nuclear project and added that he hopes that the IAEA will help the international community on this matter.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that a special exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz would take place in the UN building, and that a special session of the UN General Assembly would take place.

4. Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert briefed ministers on Israel-US discussions regarding payment for music copyrights and medical patent protection for medicines.

5. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with Basic Law: The Government, that Minister Tzipi Livni, who currently serves as Immigrant Absorption Minister and Housing and Construction Minister, would serve as Acting Justice Minister. An announcement to this effect will be made to the Knesset.

6. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 1959 Capital Investment Encouragement Law, decided to appoint Ra’anan Danur as Acting Director of the Investments Center, in addition to his current position as Director-General of the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry. The appointment will be for three months or until a permanent Director is appointed, whichever comes first.

7. The Cabinet, in accordance with the Planning and Construction Law, decided to adopt the recommendations of the Interministerial Committee on Urban Renewal, and designated the areas herein listed as follows:

a) Areas for evacuation ahead of construction: Hod Hasharon – Kinneret; Haifa – Mevo Haim; Tirat Hacarmel – Giora; Jerusalem – Hebron Road South; Petah Tikva – Arba Artzot; and Petah Tikva – Shevet Dan.
b) Areas for additional construction: Tirat Carmel – Ben Zvi and Acre – Hermon.

The designations are valid for six years and may be rescinded within that time if the requisite conditions – as determined by the aforementioned committee – are not met.

8. The Cabinet – within the framework of the State of Israel’s preparations for an influenza pandemic, and in light of World Health Organization warnings regarding new and virulent influenza strains – decided to approve the agreement between the ministries of Health and Finance regarding the purchase of the raw materials necessary for the manufacture of anti-viral medicines in order to immunize high-risk populations and health system employees. The Cabinet urged the Defense and Public Security ministers to act to stock enough anti-viral medicines for the security forces. The Cabinet will – as per developments – hold a discussion on the State of Israel’s preparations for an outbreak of influenza.