Jerusalem, 10 May 1998

CABINET COMMUNIQUE

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 10.5.98:

1. The Cabinet heard a security briefing from the head of the GSS.

2. The Prime Minister reported that he had spoken with retired Supreme Court Justice Zvi Tal and asked him to head a public committee to try to reach a solution regarding the drafting of yeshiva students into the IDF. Justice Tal agreed to the request. The rest of the committee members will be selected in the coming days.

The Prime Minister said that he asked the Defense and Justice Ministers, together with the Attorney General, to suggest suitable candidates from the defense and academic spheres, and from the religious public, to serve on the committee. The announcement of the committee’s establishment will also be made to the High Court of Justice, in advance of a discussion before a special panel of the Supreme Court about 10 days from now.

The Prime Minister said that he expects the committee to make an in-depth study of the issue which has been on the public agenda since the founding of the state and to return with a recommendation that will reflect that which unites the nation. It is precisely against the background of unacceptable attempts to inflame the public debate and make it even more extreme, that the establishment of such a respected panel may hopefully contribute both to calming the situation in the short term and to effecting reconciliation in the longer term.

3. The Cabinet decided to confirm the Justice Minister’s appointment of retired Supreme Court Justice Zvi Tal as chairman of the Public Committee to Determine the Disposition of Bequests to the State, replacing Judge Mordechai Ben-Dror, who has completed his term as chairman after serving in the post for two years.

4. The Defense Minister submitted his proposal, with the agreement of the Prime Minister, to appoint Major General Shaul Mofaz as the IDF’s next Chief-of-Staff. The Defense Minister expressed his great respect and appreciation for both Majs.-Gen Mofaz and Matan Vilna’i.

The Prime Minister said that, in his opinion, the guiding consideration was that both candidates are worthy of the position.

The Prime Minister added that both candidates can act as IDF commanders in times of peace and, if necessary, of war. Major General Mofaz is an excellent soldier and commander. He impressed him with his judgment and thoroughness, seriousness and responsibility that he has brought to every post. The Prime Minister noted that he has known Major General Vilna’i for many years, and that he is one of the IDF’s best and most capable officers. He has been, and is, one of the most outstanding soldiers in Israel’s history. In such a situation where there are two capable, responsible and honest candidates for the same position, the deciding consideration is the preference and desire of the Defense Minister to work with one of them.

The Prime Minister noted that he and the Defense Minister had held serious discussions on this issue, which will be brought for the Cabinet’s decision on Tuesday.