25.12.2003 HA’ARETZ 1. NETANYAHU WITHDRAWS BUDGET FOLLOWING MULTIPLE COALITION DEMANDS. Sharon convenes factions; effort to approve budget this week. Finance Ministry agrees to NIS 1-1.5 billion worth of changes. Among changes: Smaller education, health and welfare cuts. Netanyahu: coalition unruly and irresponsible. Coalition factions: Netanyahu’s move – brazen gall. Threat to strike schools in large cities as of Tuesday. Night negotiations to complete pension agreement. 2. SHARON WORKING TO SPEED UP EVACUATION OF OUTPOSTS. 3. Democracy index: Erosion in public support for system. MORE ISRAELIS BELIEVE THAT IT IS PERMISSIBLE TO REFUSE AN ORDER. 4. IMPORT OF MEAT FROM US HALTED. (…). 5. NETANYAHU SUPPORTS BANK PRIVATIZATION PLAN; SHEETRIT OPPOSES. Assessment: Senior Finance Ministry forums will discuss plan soon. HATZOFEH 1. Knesset Finance Committee cancels NIS 2 billion worth of cuts. DISCUSSIONS IN CRISIS: NETANYAHU THREATENS TO CANCEL 2004 DRAFT BUDGET. Finance minister announces that he will submit three-month interim budget; Knesset Finance Committee Chairman thereupon ordered immediate halt in discussion of articles in budget. Until outbreak of crisis, Finance ministry had agreed to restore NIS 700 million to education budget. Netanyahu accuses Knesset Finance Committee members of irresponsibility.

(…). MA’ARIV 1. OC INTELLIGENCE: ASSAD IS SERIOUS. Maj.-Gen. Zeevy estimates: Genuine change has begun in Damascus and Syrian proposal to resume negotiations must be tested. Reports from Cairo: Assad spoke with Mubarak about dismantling weapons of mass destruction “like Gaddafi.” 2. AS OF NEXT WEEK: STATE WITHOUT A BUDGET. Netanyahu withdraws draft budget in a rage after number of last minute changes – by his coalition partners. YEDIOT AHRONOT 1. ISRAELI CHILDREN: POOREST IN WESTERN WORLD. Even Mexico and Turkey have fewer poor children. (…). 2. AS OF TUESDAY: NO CLASSES. Local authorities decide to strike schools and kindergartens. Knesset drama: Netanyahu derails budget discussions. ____________________________ EDITORIALS FROM THE HEBREW PRESS Hatzofeh comments on the tragic death this week of a 16-year-old boy while on an outing with the Scouts. Yediot Ahronot discusses women’s role in war and notes that whereas traditionally only men went out to fight, the IDF is now prepared to train women for combat.