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Sunday, December 28, 2003

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 28.12.2003:

[IMRA: No mention of PM Sharon's remark that negotiations with Syria would
start from square one.]

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid tribute to outgoing Attorney General
Elyakim Rubinstein and thanked him for his dedication and service to the
country over the last thirty years.

2. The Cabinet decided as follows regarding the restoration of Jewish
property and rights in all spheres and in all relevant countries:

The State of Israel, in cooperation with Jewish organizations, will lead and
focus on the restoration of Jewish communal and private property in general,
and property belonging to those who suffered in the Holocaust, regardless of
whether there are heirs, both in Israel and abroad. The government will
work together with internal sources, external sources, various
organizations, Jewish communities, the Jewish Agency and foreign government

In order to implement such a policy, a ministerial committee will be set up
on the matter including: Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan
Sharansky (Chairman), Justice Minister Joseph Lapid, Foreign Minister Silvan
Shalom, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Avraham
Poraz, Housing and Construction Minister Effie Eitam and Minister Meir
Shetrit. The committee's tasks will be to formulate government policy on
this matter and to present an annual plan on its implementation.

In addition a steering committee will be formed which will operate together
with - and report to - the ministerial committee, and carry out tasks
assigned to it.

3. The Cabinet also discussed the rights and claims of Jews who left Arab
countries as refugees and decided to resume and expand upon its activities
in this area:

The Justice Ministry Division for the Rights of Jews from Arab Countries
will continue to gather information, data, claims and documents and will
record details of Jewish private and communal property in Arab countries and
the denial of their rights. A single database will be created which will
hold this information.

The Justice Ministry will publish this information in a variety of
newspapers and languages in order to encourage people to come forward with
their claims.

A steering committee will be set up on the matter of the rights of Jewish
who fled Arab countries and will be connected to the abovementioned
ministerial committee. The steering committee will report to the
ministerial committee on its progress and will carry out tasks assigned to

The Justice Ministry will cooperate with other ministries, the Jewish
Agency, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, Jewish community
representatives and other such officials as may be necessary.

4. The Cabinet decided to establish a permanent committee of ministry
directors-general, responsible for formulating decisions and overseeing
their implementation in order to fight trafficking in women for purposes of

5. The Cabinet ratified an agreement with Ukraine on the matter of settling
claims from the air tragedy of 4.10.2001, in which a Siberian Airlines
flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk was shot down by a Ukrainian army
missile during a military exercise. The Ukrainian government has agreed to
compensate the families of those killed in the tragedy.

6. Prime Minister Sharon said that the budget must be ratified as quickly as
possible in order to ensure economic stability. The Prime Minister
emphasized that the budget must remain as it stands due to international
obligations on this matter. Prime Minister Sharon requested that members of
the coalition respect this.

7. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security
matters, noting that there have been increased efforts by the terrorist
organizations to perpetrate attacks in Israel and the territories, as seen
in the terror attack at the Geha intersection in which four people were
murdered, which was carried out by the PFLP based in Nablus. The Defense
Minister added that the IDF has been successful in thwarting many terror
attacks in recent weeks.

Defense Minister Mofaz commented on Friday's tragic event in which the IDF
opened fire on demonstrators. The Defense Minister said that the
demonstrators had attempted to tear down and damage the fence and the
electronic cables on it. Defense Minister Mofaz instructed that a thorough
investigation into the incident - in which one Israeli was seriously
injured - be carried out, but noted that we have an obligation to prevent
the destruction of the security fence which saves lives.

Prime Minister Sharon said that while the security fence must not be damaged
in any way, such demonstrations must not have such serious results, and the
incident should have been resolved by dispersing the crowd.

8. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom discussed his Egyptian counterpart's visit
to Israel last week, which he said represents the continued warming of
relations with Egypt. The successful visit was shaded by the attack against
Egyptian Foreign Minister Maher by fundamentalist Palestinians on the Temple

Foreign Minister Shalom said that developments in Libya, as with the capture
of Saddam Hussein, are a sign to other radical regimes of the dangers they
face if they do not dismantle their weapons on the one hand, and of the
advantages of cooperation with the US on the other.

The Foreign Minister also mentioned US Secretary of State Colin Powell's
radio interview over the weekend in which he said that the US plans to push
the road map and bring the sides to the negotiating table. US Secretary of
State Powell blamed the Palestinians for the lack of progress and said that
this would only be possible if they chose leaders who will fight terror and
lead the Palestinian people in a new direction.

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