At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 18.1.2004: 1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last night (Saturday), 17.1.2004, telephoned Israeli Ambassador Zvi Mazal and thanked him for his stance against the increasing phenomenon of anti-Semitism and said that Israel supports him in this matter. The Prime Minister added that “we are witnesses to increased anti-Semitism in the world and in Europe specifically. The phenomenon is continuing and is becoming more serious. The government has discussed this in the past and will continue to deal with the issue together with other countries in order to increase activity against anti-Semitism. I believe that Ambassador Zvi Mazal acted correctly as what we witnessed there was so serious that it is forbidden for us to remain silent.”
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said: “Freedom of expression does not give anyone the right to justify terror attacks against Israeli citizens. It is unreasonable that an exhibition which is supposed to deal with preventing murder will include an exhibit which identifies with a woman responsible for the murder of dozens of Israelis. This is very dangerous.” The Foreign Minister added that the exhibit “reflects increased European identification with and justification of terror against Israel and demonstrates complete insensitivity and thoughtlessness to the suffering of the citizens of an entire state as well as those who have been injured and lost loved ones in terror attacks. It is common in Europe today, for the tables to be turned and for murderers to be labeled as victims, and that Israel is always guilty. In contrast to this public/media wave against Israel stands the improved relationships that have been cultivated between Israel and many European governments. There will be those who will condemn the actions of the Israeli Ambassador, and will assert that there are other methods through which to express their opposition to such incidents. However, we do protest, and we will bring these issues to the public agenda, and we caution our partners in Europe, in governments, in academia and in the media. We must view Ambassador Mazal’s as cry for everyone. His actions will raise the issue of the double standards with which Israel is judged and apathy towards the suffering of Israeli civilians in the face of Palestinian terror. Just as Israel would not provide shelter, artistic or otherwise, and in doing so justify or generate understanding towards the person that murdered the Swedish Foreign Minister, we also expect that Sweden and any other moral country, would not patronize an artistic exhibit justifying the murder of Israelis. The exhibit is a violation of the agreement with the Swedish government, whereby the Israeli-Palestinian issue would not be included in the convention on the subject of genocide. This despite the attempts of various organizations to include the Palestinian issue in the convention. The Swedish Ambassador to Israel will be invited to the Foreign Ministry today to explain how this agreement was violated by the Swedish organizers and how they can justify the insensitivity demonstrated by them towards a friendly country such as Israel. 2. Prime Minister Sharon announced that Maj. Gen (res.) Giora Eiland today took up his post as Chairman of the National Security Council and wished him luck in his new position. 3. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and the Director of the Foreign Ministry Planning Division presented the government with its targets, and emphasized the main areas the office deals with. 4. The government appointed Mr. Zvi Hefetz as Israeli Ambassador to London. 5. The government approved NIS 19 million from a number of Ministry budgets in order to continue funding plans for improvements and visits to the Western Wall. Minister for Immigration Absorption Tzipi Livni announced that she would allocate NIS 2 million for tours and visits to Jerusalem and the Western Wall. The Western Wall is a central focus for Jewish and non-Jewish worshippers. A large number of tourists and visitors from all over the world visit the Wall each year, in addition to the large number of religious, national and military ceremonies which take place there. The plaza in front of the Wall is in need of improvement, and the funds will be used to carry out these changes. 6. Prime Minister Sharon reminded ministers that five months ago it was decided that ministers appointed in government companies and other public bodies had to act to achieve fair representation for the non-Jewish population, and that the first target was to appoint someone from the non-Jewish population as a Director. Recent data shows that only 32 people from the non-Jewish sector had been appointed as directors out of 105 companies. The Prime Minister announced that the Government Companies Authority had been instructed not to approve any further appointments until the government body has appointed a non-Jewish director.