Jerusalem, 29 August 1999

Cabinet Communique

(Communicated by Cabinet Secretary)

At the Cabinet meeting today (Sunday) 29.8.99:

1. The Prime Minister opened the session by noting this week’s 60th anniversary of the start of World War II. He mentioned that the Jewish people lost a third of its population in the war and that the State of Israel was founded in its wake. Israel’s very existence and achievements are a daily memorial to the victims and their dreams.

"The Second World War was the deciding event of this century. Liberty, freedom and democracy won," he said, and took the opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of Red Army veterans who stood at the center of the fight against Nazism alongside the soldiers of the Western Allies and the Jewish Brigade. "They stood against the forces of evil and defeated them."

2. The Prime Minister surveyed the political situation: In his words, there is a chance to reach an agreement this week between Israel and the Palestinians, which will lead to an agreement on implementing the Wye River Memorandum and include an updated timetable and redeployment by the beginning of 2000 and the bringing forward of certain elements which were agreed upon at Wye. In the even that an agreement is reached, it will apparently be signed in Cairo under the aegis of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The Prime Minister stated however, that there is not yet a final agreement. If no agreement is reached, the Wye River Memorandum as written will be implemented and Israel is prepared for this possibility.

Regarding the Syrian track, the Prime Minister stated that contacts are continuing through various elements and in his opinion, it is possible a formula will be found for the resumption of talks within a few weeks.

3. IDF, Defense and Foreign Ministry officials briefed the Cabinet on Israel’s aid operations to Turkey following the earthquake. The Prime Minister thanked OC Home Front and all the rescue and aid units for their "magnificent operation". OC Home Front discussed the operations of the rescue units and the Foreign Ministry Director-General discussed the additional aid agreed upon with the Turkish government during his visit. The Cabinet noted the proposals for aiding Turkey, which have been formulated by the Foreign and Defense Ministries, including the establishment of a special emergency site, as was agreed upon with the Turkish authorities.

4. The Cabinet decided to accept the proposal of the Prime Minister to appoint a special ministerial committee, which will comprehensively deal with Israel’s earthquake preparedness. The committee will be headed by Communications Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Permanent members of the committee will include representatives of the Technion, contractors and the Seismological Institute. The committee will deal with both routine preparations and emergencies.

The Prime Minister stressed that he places great importance on the objective of the committee – to ensure compliance with the laws regarding building methods and mentioned in this regard the State Comptroller’s recent remarks and the need to take note of them.

The ministerial committee will focus, among other things, on defining the correct building standards for protecting against earthquakes and preparation for joint actions both on a day-to-day level and during emergencies. Under the authority of the ministerial committee, an inter-ministerial steering committee will be appointed, which will be headed by a person specifically appointed for this purpose.

5. The Cabinet heard a detailed survey by Education Minister Yossi Sarid, on preparations for the opening of the school year.

The Prime Minister requested that all ministers tour schools throughout the country, to highlight the importance of education. This would be a good way of showing the importance that the government attributes to education. It was agreed that the Education Minister’s Bureau and the Cabinet Secretariat would help in coordinating the tours.

The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s obligation, as expressed in promises given during the election, to reach a situation of free education from the age of 3, and free entry to university. He expressed confidence that this objective would be achieved within the current government’s term in office.

The Education Minister stood by the impressive figures at the opening of the school year. The educational framework includes 1,247,000 students in 3,050 institutes of learning, tens of thousands of classes and 110,000 teachers in full or part time employment. He stressed that in the past decade the number of students in state schools has fallen by 5%. He enunciated a list of challenges facing the education system, among them the need to increase study hours and improve infrastructure. He stressed that an improvement will begin this year in providing resources to the Arab and Bedouin sectors.

The Prime Minister stated that the opening of the school year is a moving and important moment for pupils and their families. "We have placed education at the top of our list of priorities and thus will we act," he said.

The Prime Minister and the Education Minister accepted the proposal by Transport Minister Yitzhak Mordechai that the Cabinet also hold a comprehensive discussion on the issue of educational curricula and the educational system’s goals. On this matter, the Education Minister said it is intended to implement the Kremnitzer report (which deals with democracy and citizenship) this year and the Shenhar report (which deals with increasing Jewish studies from various points of view.)

6. The Transportation Minister briefed the Cabinet in detail, with full data from the police traffic unit and the Authority to Combat Traffic Accidents, on the war against traffic accidents, taking into account the Law Against Traffic Accidents. The basic situation is as follows: Since the establishment of the state, there have been 20,852 deaths, including 541 deaths in 1998 within the Green Line. There are approximately 16,000 accidents annually. However, statistics reveal a significant gradual easing of accidents in the first half of1999 compared to last year and it is believed that efforts can be made to continue the reduction significantly in future.

The Transportation Minister announced that the ministry has completed comprehensive staff work to enhance coordination with other ministries, noting that accidents are not acts of God but of men, which can be dealt with if priority is given to the matter.

The Prime Minister welcomed the summary and inter-ministerial cooperation, reiterating his view that all citizens must work alongside the authorities and take personal responsibility towards their environment in this and other fields. He expressed the hope that results would be seen very soon. He said that nearly every day we bury a victim of the slaughter on the roads, noting the terrible fact that more people have been killed on the roads than in all the wars and terrorists attacks since the establishment of the state, including the War of Independence.

7. The Cabinet approved the following appointments:

  • Mr. Yehuda Lankry as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Mr. Yitzhak Eldan as Ambassador to Denmark
  • Mr. Yosef Hassin as Ambassador to Ecuador
  • Mr. Daniel Gal as Ambassador to Costa Rica
  • Mr. Efraim Ben-Matitahu as Consul-General in Sydney, Australia
  • Ms. Tamar Sam-Esh as Consul-General in Marseilles, France and Monaco
  • Mr. Itai Igis as Tourism Ministry Director-General.

    The Cabinet also approved a three month extension for the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption Hanoch Tzamir, and welcomed the appointments of Finance Ministry Director-General Avi Ben-Bassat and Science Ministry Director-General Nachamn Shai as members of the Civil Service Committee.

    The Cabinet also approved the composition of Israel’s mission to the United Nations. In this context, the Prime Minister wished success to the delegation and the Foreign Minister, and also drew attention to Arab elements that, on the one hand, demand that Israel show flexibility in the negotiations and, on the other hand, struggle against us at the United Nations.

    8. The Cabinet extended the validity of the security service orders dealing with military personnel serving in various civilian networks.