Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:
I will discuss three items today: The Middle East, the ports and China. You will decide in what order of importance they are, but there is no doubt that the Middle East is first. It is in one of its most sensitive periods in decades with the escalating upheaval in Syria at its center.
We are closely monitoring the developments and changes there and we are prepared for any scenario. The Government of Israel is working responsibly and with determination and sagacity, in order to ensure the supreme interest of the State of Israel – the security of Israeli citizens in keeping with the policy that we have set, to – as much as possible – prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah and to [other] terrorist elements. We will work to ensure Israelis' security interest in the future as well.
Israel's seaports are an issue that we have been occupied with for over a decade. In 2003, I initiated a multi-stage reform of the seaports. The first thing we did was the reform of the Ports Authority. We established three government companies, in Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat, and we opened Israel Shipyards in Haifa under private management. This was the first thing that we did, Stage I.
Stage II was turning the Eilat port into a privately operated port. This took place one year ago, two years later than planned.
And the third stage, which is going to happen in the coming months, is to issue a tender for an additional, new port in the State of Israel. Again, this will be a privately-operated port. This plan has very major consequences regarding the cost of living in Israel because 90% of our imports and exports, and a considerable portion of our GDP, passes through the ports in one way or another. Almost everything you see before you, products that are here or that we export to world markets pass through the ports. Only a few products use aerial transportation. Therefore, efficiency or the lack thereof at the ports is something that every citizen feels in his pocket.
We are committed to this change. I know that very many – if not all – ministers support the moves that we are going to enact. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz will submit to me the proposal that is being formulated. I will discuss it with Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and we will convene the entire Government in order to enact this reform, which will greatly affect the cost of living in the State of Israel.
Regarding China, I agreed with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang that we would establish two committees, a Chinese committee and an Israeli ministerial committee, in order to reduce the bureaucracy for Israeli companies competing in China and in order to submit various projects by Israeli experts and Israeli companies throughout China, and most likely outside China, in third countries.
This committee will be established today under my chairmanship. It will be managed by National Economic Council Chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel and will also include the senior economic ministers. Economy Minister Bennett will be vice chairman and will work with his Chinese counterpart and the top Chinese planning council.
I attribute significance to the fact that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said that China's top planning agency, which is of great importance, will be part of the Chinese committee. This might allow us to create a growth engine here. We are looking for ways to increase the pace of GNP growth and opening the Chinese market is certainly one of the things with the potential to do this. We are ready and will make all the preparations immediately. Naturally, I hope that we will see a similar response on the Chinese side.
In any event, this has important significance in ensuring growth which, in the end, alongside greater efficiency, is the most important factor that will allow us to meet our national goals.
I thank you."