Jerusalem, 12 May 1998

CABINET COMMUNIQUE

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Tuesday), 12.5.98:

1. The Cabinet, in accordance with the Defense Minister’s recommendation, unanimously decided to appoint Maj.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz as IDF chief-of- staff. Maj.-Gen. Mofaz will assume his post on 9.7.98.

The Prime Minister said that the Chief-of-Staff must be capable of serving as the commander of the IDF and of the Israeli people a serious and very important responsibility. The Prime Minister also said that he thought it appropriate to verify whether both candidates were capable of carrying this burden. He noted that it must be stated, in all fairness, that Maj.-Gen. Matan Vilna’i has many fine qualities and is highly regarded by IDF soldiers and commanders. There can be no doubt that he is one of the best commanders we have ever known, and it is fitting that we allow him to continue giving expression to his abilities.

The Prime Minister added that he is similarly convinced, without any doubt, that Shaul Mofaz can be an excellent IDF chief-of-staff, given his equanimity and discretion proven as a commander on the field of battle. The Prime Minister emphasized that, in recommending Maj.-Gen.Mofaz, the Defense Minister acted out of profound inner conviction. In light of the above, preference must clearly be given to the Defense Minister’s recommendation.

The Defense Minister said that he had concentrated on four main factors in deliberating on the appointment of a chief-of-staff first and foremost, his personality and leadership ability, his professional capability to command a modern and sophisticated military, the quality of his decisions, and his ability to identify the IDF’s needs within a comprehensive national context.

The Defense Minister added that, upon assuming his post, he had announced that two people would serve as deputy chief-of-staff and that he would select one of them as chief-of-staff.

The Defense Minister also noted that his decision was based on a 30-year acquaintance with Majs.-Gen. Mofaz and Vilna’i; no personal factors were involved in the decision. While he holds Maj.-Gen. Vilna’i in very high esteem, he forthrightly decided to recommend Mofaz to the Cabinet as chief-of-staff. In the Defense Minister’s opinion, he is worthy of the position.

The Defense Minister added that damaging remarks, which should have been avoided, have been made of late and that it must be always be remembered that the IDF is a people’s army responsible for defending the State. Decisions were made in an appropriate and orderly fashion, the test of which lies in the outcome, which is correct. The Defense Minister expressed his hope that Maj.-Gen. Vilna’i will continue to hold important positions on behalf of the nation and the State, and offered his sincere wishes for success to Maj.-Gen. Mofaz the next chief-of-staff whose success will bring security for the nation and the State.

2. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with the Finance Minister’s proposal, to implement the June 1997 agreement on local authorities, as follows:

The "Enforcement Law" will be passed next week, with the consent and support of the local authorities. The Government’s commitments of funds, according to the rehabilitation program approved and signed by the local authorities, will be immediately unfrozen, and the Efrati Commission will complete its work within three months.

3. The Cabinet decided to authorize the Foreign Minister and the Transportation Minister, in coordination with the Attorney-General, to reach agreement on the procedures and rules for joint Jordanian-Israeli use of Aqaba’s airspace.

4. The Cabinet decided, by a majority vote, to approve the Finance Ministry proposal regarding supplementary measures intended to accelerate economic growth and reduce unemployment, in accordance with which the State will invest NIS 1 billion in infrastructure projects.