(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 2 October 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – on his own behalf and that of the Government – wished the Jewish People a happy New Year; he also greeted Israel’s Muslim citizens on the start of Ramadan.

2. Prime Minister Sharon briefed ministers on his recent visit to the UN. He said: “In the middle of last month, I visited the UN in New York. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom accompanied me during the diplomatic meetings. Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert, who was in New York, accompanied me for several of the meetings. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of the founding of the UN; it was the largest meeting ever of world leaders. During the visit, I met many leaders, including US President George Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secy.-Gen. Kofi Annan, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (who is the European Union Acting President), EU Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso, Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Jordanian King
Abdullah II and South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The principal messages that I conveyed during my meetings were:

a) The focus must be Gaza, so that the post-disengagement process is successful.  We made it clear that progress in Gaza on security, economic and administrative issues will positively affect the process with the Palestinians and clarify where the Palestinian Authority (PA) is headed.  We made it clear that Israel will render maximum assistance in order to assure success in Gaza.

b) Responsibility for what takes place in Gaza has passed from Israel to the Palestinians.  They must run their affairs on their own and prove that they can do so.

c) We raised the issue of the non-participation of Hamas in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. We made it clear that Israel views the participation of Hamas – in its current format – in the elections as dangerous. We said that Hamas’s participation in the elections could only come about after it renounces terrorism, disarms and rescinds its covenant, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. We made it clear that while the PA elections are indeed an internal Palestinian affair that Israel cannot prevent, Hamas’s participation in the elections will dictate Israel’s degree of cooperation with these elections and will not allow us to cooperate and coordinate with the Palestinians on this issue, as was the case during the elections for PA Chairman.

We made it clear that the process on the Palestinian track will be in accordance with the Roadmap only.

We discussed the Iranian nuclear issue and its concomitant dangers, as well as the importance of transferring the issue from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UN Security Council, including the taking of tangible sanctions against Iran so that it halts all progress on its nuclear program. We also discussed the need to prevent any agreement or compromise with Iran.

We discussed the importance of implementing UN Security Council Decision #1559, of continuing to press Syria to withdraw
all its forces and influence from Lebanon and of pressing Hizbullah to disarm.

This was a very important and successful visit. It was possible to feel the great support, the special status and the warm relations that Israel is receiving in the international arena following the Disengagement plan and its successful implementation. All of the leaders with whom I spoke, including many who approached to shake my hand (including Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, French Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi), expressed great appreciation for Israel and said that while they were very impressed by the manner in which the plan was implemented by the IDF and the Israel Police, they were mainly impressed by the displays of restraint and determination.

My speech to the UN General Assembly was received with considerable praise and esteem by the heads of state. This
time, we did not witness the scenes from the past in which many left the hall during the speech of an Israeli representative.

There was unanimity regarding both the various issues that were raised and the messages that we passed along during the meetings as I have detailed.

Raising the issue of Hamas’s non-participation in the PA elections was the correct step, which placed the issue on the international agenda. The issue was even discussed at length at the meeting of the Quartet that was held later.  We intend to work together with the international community in order to formulate a correct modus operandi regarding Hamas’s participation in the elections. I would
like to express great appreciation for the US stand on this issue as found expression in US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice’s remarks over the weekend.

In addition to the diplomatic meetings, I met with US Jewish community leaders. I updated them on the situation in Israel following the disengagement.  I thanked them for the assistance to, and solidarity with, Israel during this sensitive period.”

3. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current diplomatic and security matters. The Foreign Minister discussed the UN General Assembly session, which he attended along with Prime Minister Sharon, and noted that it dealt – inter alia – with necessary reforms for increasing its efficiency.

Foreign Minister Shalom held approximately 30 working meetings with his counterparts from various countries, including Arab and Islamic nations. At these meetings it was made clear that upon the completion of the disengagement, responsibility for the fate of Gaza and its residents is now with the PA. All future diplomatic progress depends on the manner in which the PA deals with this responsibility. The Foreign Minister emphasized that he made it clear to his interlocutors that Israel will not lend its hand to Hamas’s participation in the expected elections for the Palestinian parliament.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that there has been an improvement in Israel’s status and that the General Assembly was also special due to the show of international support. There is no doubt that Israel’s position in the international arena is constantly strengthening.  Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Shalom were received with great appreciation in the international
arena, which witnessed the painful diplomatic steps that Israel carried out. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister also heard understanding and sympathy for the Israeli public, including the settlers.

Regarding relations with the Arab-Islamic world, Foreign Minister Shalom made it clear that first and foremost we see an increasing openness to relations with Israel by Arab and Islamic countries.  He said that he met with 10 Arab and Islamic foreign ministers during the General Assembly session; these meetings herald the coming of a new era in Israel’s relations with the Muslim world. The Foreign Minister said that the Arab and Islamic world is beginning to understand that normalization of relations with us will contribute both to itself and the diplomatic process in the region.

Broad international support for Israel has enabled us to continue to block damaging Palestinian initiatives at the UN and to advance Israel’s position at the UN in recent months. We feel that the UN Secretariat is more attentive to Israel’s positions.

Foreign Minister Shalom also briefed ministers that the General Assembly adopted a document that dealt with third world development, UN reforms and the responsibility of countries to protect populations from murder and war crimes – the document explicitly condemns terrorism, regardless of its location, who is perpetrating it or for what purpose it has been perpetrated. The UN Security Council convened at the level of heads-of-state and adopted an important decision on terrorism that includes a sweeping condemnation of terrorism and a call for international
cooperation in fighting terrorism and its infrastructures.

Foreign Minister – on his own behalf and that of the Government – conveyed condolences to the government of Indonesia, which has again suffered a murderous attack by extremist Islamic terrorist organizations.

Defense Minister Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters and said that recent events have been a major test for all elements operating in the Palestinian arena following the IDF’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that before the withdrawal Israel had set for itself rules and principles for responding to threats on ‘the day after’ with the focus of the response being the security of Israel’s citizens, especially those in the western Negev. While the new rules of the game as Israel has defined them have been felt, they have yet to lead to a complete conceptual change among the terrorist organizations.  Israel decided not to allow firing from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory or to allow the terrorist organizations to dictate a reality that jibes with their interests. This week, Israel proved that its decision to formulate new rules of the game and to dictate their implementation to the terrorist organizations were correct.

The massive firing at the western Negev and Sderot met a vigorous Israeli response that led – at least for the time being – the terrorist organizations to the understanding that they face a new reality. This deterrent policy was implemented in the context of an Israeli response based on deterrence against the production of high-trajectory rockets and supporting terrorist infrastructures.  The assertive action is part of continuing activity against the firing of high-trajectory rockets and the carrying out of terrorist attacks
against Israeli citizens. This policy will not allow Palestinian terrorist organizations to link their Gaza Strip-based actions against Israeli territory to events in Judea and Samaria.

Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the kidnapping and murder of Sasson Nuriel by Hamas. The hunt for the perpetrators continues; the State of Israel will settle accounts with those responsible.

Defense Minister Mofaz referred to the warning against traveling to Sinai and to the security forces’ deployment for the holidays.

4. The Cabinet discussed Prime Minister Sharon’s and Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert proposal regarding the new draft Bank of Israel law to replace the current law, which dates from the 1950’s and reflects antiquated outlooks.

5. The Cabinet discussed Prime Minister Sharon’s, Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz’s and Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog’s proposal on the establishment of a community named after the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and decided:

The Interior Ministry will coordinate staff work, in cooperation with the other relevant ministries, on establishing such a new community in Southern Sharon Regional Council area. The area of the community will be based – as much as possible – on the ‘Tzur Yitzhak’ plan that was approved the planning institutions on 23 October 2000. The staff work will be submitted to the National Planning and Building Council, which will present its recommendation to the Cabinet. The foregoing will be carried out as per the relevant guidelines as issued by the Attorney-General’s office.

6. The Cabinet decided to allocate to the Prime Minister’s Office, within the framework of the SELA Disengagement Authority’s operating budget, an additional NIS 20 million budget earmarked for contact – via the Defense Ministry – with the hotels in which Gaza Strip and northern Samaria residents are lodging.

The Cabinet directed the SELA Disengagement Authority to prepare a detailed plan on ending the residents’ lodging in hotels.

The SELA Disengagement Authority prepared to absorb Gaza Strip and northern Samaria residents in provisional, short-term housing as an interim step until they could enter either temporary or permanent residences. To this end, agreements were signed regarding approximately 1,000 hotel rooms on the working assumption that the evacuation of residents would take up to three
weeks, a situation that might entail longer stays in the hotels. Close to evacuation day, it became clear that the evacuation of residents would only take a few days, thus obviating the need for longer hotel stays; therefore, the Cabinet decided to increase the number of rooms to approximately 2,000.

As noted, the Cabinet has directed the SELA Disengagement Authority to prepare a detailed plan on ending the residents’ stays in hotels and has approved an additional budget for financing hotel stays through the end of October.

7. The Cabinet decided to advance the establishment of new communities in the Halutza area of the Negev for communities from the Gaza Strip.  As an interim step, it was agreed to establish temporary construction sites at the nearby communities of Yated and Yevul.

The Cabinet also decided to direct the Construction and Housing Ministry to work towards the establishment of temporary residences for Gaza Strip residences at the communities of Ein Tzurim, Massuot Yitzhak, Shokeda and Even Shmuel, and to complete the site at Yad Binyamin.

In order to assure that the sites are filled, the SELA Disengagement Authority will receive appropriate commitments from the residents who are designated to move into the sites before the beginning of development work.

8. The Cabinet discussed Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Yisrael Katz’s appeal against the decision of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve the draft 2005 Animal Cruelty Law regarding the force-feeding of geese.  Minister Katz subsequently withdrew his appeal. The Cabinet decided to establish an interministerial committee to determine how to assist such agricultural enterprises that will be forced to close. The committee will submit its recommendations within 60 days.

9. The Cabinet directed Deputy Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior to establish an interministerial committee on the restoration of Jewish property rights. The committee will formulate an overall policy on the issue based on, and in keeping with, the various Cabinet decisions on the issue.