At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday),

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat) 1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters and said that while there has been a certain decrease in the scope of the warnings, the warnings continue regarding the terrorist organizations ’ efforts to perpetrate harsh attacks on Israeli soil. Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the security establishment’s ongoing counter-terrorist actions and said that several planned terrorist attacks in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip were foiled and/or disrupted this week, including the encounter with several Tanzim terrorists in Nablus (), the arrest of several potential suicide bombers in Judea and Samaria, the arrest of terrorists in the Jenin area, the foiling of an attempt to infiltrate Kfar Darom and the location of additional tunnels for the smuggling of war material in Rafiah (). Defense Minister Mofaz said that while no rockets were launched at Israeli territory this week, there was an increase in the firing of mortar rounds at communities in the Gaza Strip. Defense Minister Mofaz referred to the continued easing of humanitarian conditions for the Palestinian population, in the framework of which, the entry into Israel of an additional 2,500 workers was approved. Regarding the situation in the Palestinian sphere, Defense Minister Mofaz said that Arafat’s serious health situation continues to be the focus of international attention as well. Abu Ala and Abu Mazen have taken responsibilities upon themselves without overstepping – as a rule – the boundaries that Arafat set for them prior to his departure for Paris. Defense Minister Mofaz reviewed the situation on the northern front and said that Syria is continuing to maintain a low profile in its efforts to stabilize its hold on the new Lebanese government. He noted that this was the fourth year in a row in which a rocket was launched at Israeli territory, apparently by Palestinians; as far as is known, the Lebanese government took no preventive whatsoever.

2. In accordance with the National Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Memorial Sites Law, the Cabinet decided to accept the recommendation of Acting Environment Minister Ilan Shalgi to appoint Alona Karo to a four-year term as a member of the Nature Protection and National Parks Authority plenum, as a representative of public bodies that deal with the environment. The plenum is composed of government representatives, seven experts who represent relevant scientific institutions and four public representatives. Ms. Karo’s appointment was examined and approved in accordance with Article 60a of the Government Companies Law. 3. In accordance with the 1958 Council for Higher Education Law (), the Cabinet decided to recommend to President Moshe Katsav that he appoint Israel Student Federation Chairman Asaf Segev as a member of the Council for Higher Education in place of outgoing Israel Student Federation Chairman Sagiv Asolin. 4. In response to Interior Minister Avraham Poraz’s question regarding the directive to postpone the continuation of work on the interchange separating railroad tracks and a highway in Acre, following the discovery of an ancient cemetery, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that there is a claim that this is an ancient Jewish cemetery and a demand by ultra-orthodox elements to halt the excavations. Prime Minister Sharon added that at least 100,000 people, led by Rabbi Elyashiv, were due to hold a demonstration regarding the cemetery. “I didn’t think that in addition to all of the existing tension, that this is what we lacked right now. Therefore, I requested that an additional check be made.” Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that if it was possible to prevent strife among Jews, efforts should be made to do so: “If there is the possibility of preventing a large-scale demonstration and a worsening of relations, and carry out an additional check that will take three weeks, this must be done. Therefore, I requested that the excavations be postponed in order to see what may be done to prevent an increase in strife and conflicts.”