Jerusalem, 7 March 1999

Cabinet Communique

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 7.3.99:

1. At the start of the meeting, the Cabinet marked International Women’s Day, which takes place tomorrow. On the first anniversary of the passage of the Advancement of the Status of Women Law, the Director of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women reviewed projects being administered by the Authority including an educational program on gender equality; lectures within the civil service and the IDF on the prevention of violence; the employment of women in certain sectors; and programs designed to further the implementation of new sexual harassment legislation, the early detection of breast cancer and the advancement of minority women.

2. 1) The Cabinet unanimously approved the Prime Minister’s proposal to create a national security council. The council will serve as a coordinating, integrative, deliberative and supervisory body on matters of national policy, and will operate as an arm of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Cabinet took note of the Prime Minister’s statement that he has appointed Major-General (res.) David Ivry to chair the Council and to serve as national security advisor. The Prime Minister said that no person in the State of Israel is more qualified to hold this very important post than Ivry. The Prime Minister will inform the Cabinet of other senior Council appointments when they are made.

The Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, in conjunction with the Finance Minister and the Civil Service Commissioner, and with the knowledge of the Prime Minister, was charged with determining the budgetary and organizational framework for Council operations no later than 1.4.99.

2) As set forth in Cabinet decisions, the Council’s objectives and functions are:

i) to serve as a national security staff attached to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet;

ii) the Council will derive its authority from the Government, and operate in accordance with the instructions of the Prime Minister. The head of the Council will answer directly to the Prime Minister;

iii) a) to function as a senior advisory forum for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on matters of national security;

     b) to centralize an assessment of expected trends and processes, through integrating all strata of national security;

     c) to direct integrative staff work between Government ministries and offices dealing with national security, receiving input on their various areas of responsibility toward increasing coordination and integration between them;

     d) to prepare for discussions by the Cabinet, the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs and the Prime Minister, and to brief Knesset committees on these issues, in accordance with the instructions of the Prime Minister;

     e) to make recommendations on national security policy to the Cabinet;

     f) to engage in the long-range planning of national security components, with the assistance of existing planning bodies in those Government ministries and offices dealing with national security;

     g) to monitor and update national security activities, and to look after the implementation of national security decisions, and

     h) to maintain coordinative and cooperative relations with parallel national security officials in selected countries, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and its missions abroad, and in accordance with acceptable practice.

iv) The Prime Minister ordered that the non-conventional weapons and ballistic missile threats be immediately addressed by the Council as its top priority.

The Prime Minister offered the following comments during the Cabinet discussion on the National Security Council:

"The need to create a national security council has been repeatedly raised by various quarters including commissions of inquiry, statesmen, military officials, academics and the Knesset over the past 25 years.

"National security issues involve political questions which draw upon various fields that fall under the responsibility of different Government offices. A multi- dimensional analytical entity is thus required.

"It is no coincidence that most countries with national security councils deal, first and foremost, with strategic threats posed by ballistic missiles and non-conventional weapons and Israel also requires new analytical and practical assessments on this issue.

"We are also moving into an economic world where strength on the plane of national security is directly influenced by economic and technological power. These are two important dimensions which, in the past, have not been addressed in an organized and expanded fashion.

"Few believed that we would succeed in creating this body, and we are doing it today. Our commitment to this matter is clear and absolute. The National Security Council will take its rightful place in the spheres of strategic thought and the integration of work by relevant offices, and in assisting the Government and the Cabinet in these functions."

The Prime Minister praised the Defense and Foreign Ministers for their support in the formation of the Council.

The Attorney-General, who welcomed the creation of the Council, noted that the Cabinet decision constitutes the implementation of the 1991 law on the operation of a national security staff.

3. The Prime Minister referred to remarks concerning MK Yossi Sarid aired on the Kol Hamizrach radio station.

The Prime Minister sharply condemned the statements, adding that the law enforcement authorities the Attorney-General, the State Attorney’s Office and the Israel Police must take appropriate action, in keeping with their mandate.

The Prime Minister said, "Freedom of speech must be maintained in democratic countries, and this also means protecting freedom of expression from threats thereagainst."

4. The Cabinet decided, in the wake of staff work coordinated by the Justice Ministry, the Civil Service Commission and the Cabinet Secretariat, on a comprehensive re-organization of the approval process for Civil Service appointments. According to the decision, every Cabinet appointment must undergo a preliminary examination to confirm its professional and ethical integrity via any of the following channels: the Advisory Committee, the Civil Service Commission Appointments Committee, the Ben Dror, or an examination by the legal advisor of a Government office.

5. The Cabinet approved, in accordance with the proposal of the Health Minister and with the consent of the Finance Minister, the addition of medicines and health services to the Health Services Basket, as required by the National Health Law. The NIS 35 million supplement comes in the wake of a Cabinet decision to add NIS 150 million to the 1999 Health Services Basket for new services, and in the wake of a 10.1.99 Cabinet decision authorizing a NIS 115 million list of additional services. Among the health services added by today’s Cabinet decision are medicines for cancer patients, as well as cardiac treatments and dental procedures for oncological patients.

6. The Cabinet decided to charge the National Infrastructure Ministry, in coordination with the Finance and Transportation Ministries, with issuing a tender for the construction and operation of a private Tel Aviv-Kfar Saba train route by the end of April.

7. The Cabinet approved, in accordance with the Higher Education Council Law, the Council’s decision to grant a license for the Hemdat Hadarom college to open and function as an institution of higher education. Hemdat Hadarom is an independent educational institution operating as a State religious teachers college.

8. The Cabinet instructed the National Infrastructure, Finance and Interior Ministers to carry out the required economic activities for the early operation of seawater desalination plants including the preparation of a detailed plan for the location of desalination facilities and their integration into the national water supply, the securing of sites for the above facilities, and; the approval of a national desalination blueprint. Simultaneously, the necessary steps will be taken to fully utilize the potential of treated water for agricultural purposes as a replacement for potable water sources, in accordance with the Cabinet decision on a multi-year plan to promote the use of treated water. In addition, tenders will be prepared for the private construction and operation of a desalination facility.

9. The Cabinet approved the expansion of the Public Committee for the Determination of the Use of Estates by the State, and determined the process of Committee appointments.

10. The Cabinet decided to ratify the agreement on scientific and technological cooperation between the European Union and the State of Israel. The agreement grants Israel associate status in the European program encompassing all technological and industrial research and development. Israel is the only non-European associate in the program.

The Cabinet also decided to ratify the following agreements a technical cooperation agreement with Uzbekistan; investment promotion and mutual protection agreements with Moldova, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, and; a health and medical cooperation agreement with the Republic of Armenia.

The Cabinet also approved the protocol regarding the authenticated text of the 30.9.77 International Civil Aviation Convention.