(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

1. Prime Minister Sharon eulogized Pope John Paul II and said, “On behalf of the Government and the State of Israel, I would like to express condolences on the passing of Pope John Paul II, and to share in the mourning of millions of Christians and believers in both the State of Israel and around the Christian world. Pope John Paul II was a man of peace and a friend of the Jewish People, who was familiar with the uniqueness of the Jewish People and who worked for an historic reconciliation between the peoples and for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican in late 1993. I was fortunate to meet the Pope in 1999, when I served as Foreign Minister and had traveled, on behalf of the Government, to invite him to attend the millennium celebrations. At my meeting with him, I felt the Pope’s warm and admiring relations toward the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yesterday, the world lost one of the most important leaders of our generation, whose great contribution to rapprochement and unity between peoples, understanding and tolerance will be with us for many years.” Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, today expressed his deep sorrow at the passing of Pope John Paul II and said, “This is a great loss, first and foremost for the Catholic Church and its hundreds of millions of believers, but also for humanity as a whole. I had the privilege of meeting with His Holiness twice, and I was deeply impressed by his insights and his unique humanity. The State of Israel joins all those who mourn his loss. John Paul II led the Catholic Church towards closer relations with Israel and with the Jewish people. Through his public and religious work, he promoted inter-faith understanding and dialogue, with a willingness to address the past, and a profound determination to build a future of understanding and brotherhood between all faiths. John Paul II was the first Pope in history to visit a synagogue (Rome, 1986), where he referred to the Jewish people, for the first time, as ‘our elder brothers’. On all his travels around the world he always made sure to meet with the Jewish community in every place. The Pope was committed to the fight against anti-Semitism, which he saw as a sin against God and against humanity. In the build-up to the millennium, Pope John Paul II called on the Catholic Church to conduct soul-searching regarding its relations with the Jewish people and all those who have suffered as a result of the Church’s teachings. Prior to his historic visit to Israel in 2000 (), the Pope asked the Jewish people for forgiveness for the crimes that have been perpetrated against it in the name of the Church. He later wrote that message on a piece of paper () that he placed between the rocks of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, during his visit to Jerusalem. The Pope’s visit to Israel in March 2000 , together with tens of thousands of pilgrims, also included a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and meetings with Israel’s president and prime minister.

Pope John Paul II will be remembered for his courageous and visionary drive to establish full relations between Israel and the Holy See, a joint effort which was crowned with success with the signing of the Fundamental Agreement () between the two parties on 30 December 1993. Israel, the Jewish people and the entire world, lost today a great champion of reconciliation and brotherhood between the faiths.” 2. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom announced the death of Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Doron Grossman, who died of his wounds following a suicide attempt: “Doron, 48, was a talented and professional diplomat with a promising future, who, during his twenty years in the Foreign Service, contributed greatly to the promotion of Israel’s foreign relations. Doron served as Israel’s ambassador to Senegal and Ethiopia and held a number of senior positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel and in several European countries. Doron was slated for promotion and was recently appointed ambassador of Israel to South Africa. In light of his broad academic and his many achievements throughout his diplomatic career, Doron’s death will be felt deeply in Israel’s Foreign Service.” 3. Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, Prime Minister’s Officer Director-General Ilan Cohen and Finance Ministry Director-General Yossi Bachar briefed ministers on the issue of credit for local authorities. The Cabinet decided to establish an inter-ministerial committee, under the direction of Interior Minister Ophir and including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry, to be chaired in order to thoroughly examine the local authorities and to propose to the Cabinet a comprehensive plan on the matter. 4. In light of the need to make changes in the 2005 budget, following additions due to coalition agreements and the need to finance the health basket, the Cabinet decided to reduce ministerial budgets by 2.9%, except for the resources being channeled to welfare services, education reform and local authorities (recovery programs and balancing grants) and decided as follows: a. Reduce base budget for government ministries by 2.9% b. The Defense Ministry budget is to be reduced by an additional NIS 100 million. c. There will be no reduction in funds budgeted for education reform, welfare services and the local authority budgets (recovery programs and balancing grants). d. Despite the foregoing in 4a, no budgetary reductions will be made either in those items in the budget that have to do with the implementation of primary legislation for which certain amounts or rates are specified or in those items that are designed to fulfill contractual obligations by the Government (including wage and other agreements). e. Government ministries will be entitled to propose that they use reserve funds to cover certain ministry costs. The Cabinet instructed Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ask Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg to act to reduce their offices’ expenses, to increase efficiency, and to deduct NIS 4.2 million from the Knesset budget and NIS 2.7 million from the State Comptroller’s budget. This decision is in addition to previous government decisions on reducing government offices’ budgets and does not detract from those decisions. 5. The Cabinet, in accordance with both the 1990 Second Authority for Television and Radio Law and Communications Minister Dalia Itzik’s proposal, decided to appoint Dr. Baruch Leshem to the Second Authority for Television and Radio Council in place of Dr. Mahmud Abbasi, who has completed his term. 6. The Cabinet approved the following diplomatic appointments: Shalom Cohen, Ambassador to Egypt; Ya’akov Amitai, Ambassador to Ethiopia and non-resident Ambassador to Burundi, Mozambique and Rwanda; Ilan Ben Dov, Ambassador to Singapore and non-resident Ambassador to East Timor; Walid Mansour, Ambassador to Peru and non-resident Ambassador to Bolivia; Arthur Lank, Ambassador to Azerbaijan. 7. The Cabinet discussed financing a project to restore 50 historical sites from prior to, and during, the establishment of the State of Israel, and decided that: a. The Finance Ministry will transfer the remaining sum to complete the government’s contribution for 2005-2008 to the Education Ministry. This does not represent an increase in the government budget for this project. b. The steering committee for preserving historical buildings and sites will monitor the implementation of the project. 8. Education Minister Limor Livnat reported on progress in negotiations with teachers’ organizations ahead of the implementation of the Dovrat report. She said that she was determined to implement the report and discussed budget requirements for the next five years. Prime Minister Sharon said that the education reforms have top priority, and instructed those officials involved in the negotiations to complete them without making sweeping changes to the plan. 9. Interior Minister Ophir Pines Paz discussed damage caused to property in the Maghar village following the recent disturbances there. Prime Minister Sharon said that the government is committed to aiding those residents who were injured. The Cabinet decided to set up a committee that will prepare a detailed proposal on how to deal with private sector damage. Interior Minister Pines-Paz will chair the committee; Finance Minister Netanyahu, Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog, Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert and Attorney General Meni Mazuz will also participate. BPI-info