(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At its first weekly meeting today (Sunday), 11.7.99, the Cabinet addressed a series of issues, under three primary groupings:
1. The Cabinet unanimously approved the appointments of Yitzhak Herzog as Cabinet Secretary and of Yossi Kucik as Prime Minister’s Office Director-General. The Cabinet also recorded the appointment of Minister Haim Ramon as the Minister responsible for coordination between the Government and the Knesset, as well as the appointments of the following ministers as Deputy Prime Minister: A. Foreign Minister David Levy. B. Transportation Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. C. Communications Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
The Prime Minister also announced that he will soon appoint a Shas deputy prime minister, as required by the coalition agreement signed between One Israel and Shas.
2. The Prime Minister informed the Cabinet that, during his upcoming visit to the United States and Britain, Foreign Minister David Levy will serve as Acting Prime Minister and Transportation Minister Yitzhak Mordechai will serve as Acting Defense Minister.
The Prime Minister’s other portfolios will be temporarily held by Interior Minister Natan Sharansky and Communications Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
3. The Cabinet was briefed on political and security issues by the Prime Minister, the IDF Chief-of-Staff, the head of the General Security Service and the Police Inspector-General. It was determined that briefings would remain secret, in accordance with the Basic Law: The Government. During his briefing, the Prime Minister offered details of his visit to Egypt, his meeting with President Mubarak and the issues they discussed, noting the positive and warm atmosphere which prevailed during the talks. The Prime Minister also updated the Ministers on his upcoming meetings with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, King Abdullah of Jordan, US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
The Prime Minister clarified that, in the political sphere, he is examining ways to advance on the various negotiating tracks, and that no preference will be given to any particular track. The Prime Minister noted his assessment the political course will not be short, adding that he made it clear to President Mubarak and others with whom he met that terrorism must be fought vigorously.
4. The Prime Minister outlined his belief system with regard to the nature of Government work, emphasizing the collective responsibility of the Ministers and his aspiration for substantive, civilized and collegial discussions.
The Prime Minister noted that he expects ministers to be doubly cautious in all matters relating to political statements that may, unintentionally, affect diplomatic efforts.
At the invitation of the Prime Minister, the Attorney- General conducted a review of established legal norms on various issues related to the workings of government, with particular regard for appointments, allocations and real estate activity.
The Cabinet approved the code of Government conduct.
5. The Cabinet unanimously decided to send the amended Basic Law: The Government to the Knesset, enabling a provisional increase in the number of ministers and deputy ministers during the tenure of the current Knesset. A discussion, in which most Cabinet ministers participated, was held on the matter.
In his remarks, the Prime Minister clarified that the coalition agreement is binding as the basis for the partnership upon which the Government was created. "This is necessity arising from a situation which those who legislated the Direct Election Law did not foresee," the Prime Minister stated. "The Knesset is composed of a record number of approximately 15 factions, instead of two or three large blocs, and thus the amendment comes as a required consequence."
The Finance Minister clarified that he refuted the claims according to which the expansion of the Government would supposedly bear a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels. The Finance Minister also presented a detailed document of the Finance Ministry Budget Division, according to which the expansion of the Government will cost no more than NIS 10 million per annum.
6. The Prime Minister congratulated the Ministers and the new government, with special mention of those ministers sitting at the Cabinet table for the first time, as they begin their work.