12.02.2004 HA’ARETZ 1. NETANYAHU ANNOUNCES: LOWER TAXES ON PRODUCTS – MINISTERS: PREFERABLE TO GIVE IN ON MINISTRY CUTS. Sharp reduction in taxes on electronic goods and food; at same time – NIS 3 billion budget cut; Livnat: Pupils will go home at 11:30. 2. 10:15 – 5.0 earthquake felt throughout Israel. AFTER EARTHQUAKE: LITTLE PANIC, LITTLE DAMAGE, AND MUCH TALK ABOUT PREPAREDNESS FOR FUTURE. Center of earthquake: 16 kilometers under northeast Dead Sea. Injured: Dozens panic-stricken, one man moderately injured – construction worker who fell. Minor property damage: cracks in walls, shattered glass. School pupils sent out into yards, classes halted for 1.5 hours. Cracks in Knesset building: Plenum delayed due to concerns over cracks in acoustic ceiling. 3. 15 PALESTINIANS, AT LEAST SEVEN OF WHOM WERE ARMED, KILLED IN CLASHES WITH IDF FORCE IN GAZA STRIP. 4. AIR FORCE PILOT EJECTS FROM SKYHAWK BEFORE IT CRASHES. Committee established to inquire into circumstances of crash in skies over southern Hebron hills. HATZOFEH 1. Hundreds of thousands of buildings in Israel not up to earthquake standards. EXPERT: EXPECTED EARTHQUAKE TO BE 900 TIMES AS POWERFUL AS YESTERDAY’S. 5.0 earthquake felt throughout country at 10:15. Luckily – only minor damage. (…). Committee on earthquake preparation to instruct population soon on what to do during earthquake. Committee chairman Minister Eitam not optimistic: “Another earthquake is not question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.” 2. NETANYAHU LOWERS TAXES BUT CUTS BUDGET. [Education Minister Limor] Livnat threatens to shorten school day. (…). Purchase taxes on electronic goods to be reduced. (…). Duties on imported consumer items – rice, pasta, margarine, coffee, sugar and eggs – to be cancelled. 3. IDF CONDUCTS WIDE-RANGING ACTION IN GAZA STRIP; 14 TERRORISTS ELIMINATED. MA’ARIV 1. Today: Duties reduction. Soon: VAT down to 17%. LESS TAXES. Finance Minister surprises: As of today, electronic goods and imported food to be cheaper. Opposition critical: “If there is no bread, buy a DVD.” Netanyahu also demanding additional NIS 2.5 billion budget cut. 2. ISRAEL SHOOK. At 10:17, ground moved. 5.1 earthquake sent thousands into streets, cracked walls and downed cellular phone networks. YEDIOT AHRONOT 1. THE CELEBRATION AND THE PRICE. Electronic goods: Major reductions. Food products: Minor reductions. VAT: From 18% to 17%. Education: “Studies to be shortened.” Health: “Fewer medicines.” Welfare: “Blow to elderly.” Social organizations: Video instead of bread? Netanyahu: It will bring growth. 2. THE GROUND SHOOK. It happened at 10:14: 15-second earthquake – and panic throughout the country. Pupils evacuated from classes, workers fled from skyscrapers, cellular phone networks went down. Experts: Catastrophe yet before us – and we are not prepared.

______________________________ SUMMARY OF EDITORIALS FROM THE HEBREW PRESS Yediot Ahronot, in its second editorial, comments on yesterday’s earthquake and criticizes those whom it accuses of sowing panic over Israel’s alleged lack of preparedness for future, possibly more serious, earthquakes. Hatzofeh deplores the socio-economic plight of Israel’s senior citizens and urges President Moshe Katsav – who has shown special interest in helping Israel’s elderly – to consider resigning in protest. Yediot Ahronot analyzes the series of economic measures that were announced yesterday by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and believes that, “Netanyahu’s goal is clear: Reduce the government’s role in the economy and increase that of citizens and businesses.” The editors believe that, “Given the current state of the Israeli economy, an economy that is still crawling along, no professional economist will be able to criticize the Finance Ministry’s moves yesterday, only welcome them.” BPI