(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 4 February 2007:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert congratulated Minister Raleb Majadele on his participation in his first Cabinet meeting: “Welcome. On behalf of the entire Government, I wish you success in fulfilling your position.”

2. The Deputy Director of the Israel Security Agency briefed ministers on events in the Gaza Strip, including the violent clashes between various Palestinian elements and the political situation between the various organizations.

Prime Minister Olmert said: “As we have clearly said all along, we have nothing to do with – and we are not involved in – the issue of Palestinian domestic events. This is their internal matter, which we are not happy about, and which we do not believe constitutes any sort of breakthrough that can be of long-term assistance in creating a desirable process. We are certainly that the positions represented by Abu Mazen – and not those of Khaled Mashal and Hamas – be those represented by the Palestinian government. We are against Hamas as long as it adheres to its positions and represents the policy that it represents. If Hamas would adopt the Quartet principles – recognize the agreements that have been signed with Israel, recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist, completely halt terrorism and, of course, return Gilad Shalit – such a government, even if Hamas is part of it, would be a partner for negotiations.”

Prime Minister Olmert said that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Israel in the coming weeks and would hold a joint meeting with himself and the head of the Palestinian Authority. The intention is to examine the political horizons that could advance the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue process according to the Roadmap.

Prime Minister Olmert expressed the hope that the Palestinians will be ready to conduct the process according to the appropriate conditions – without terrorism and violence, without Kassams and without suicide attacks. A situation in which terrorism and suicide attacks continue will not create the conditions conducive to the diplomatic process.

3. The Cabinet discussed the necessary steps for reducing social gaps and increasing the rate of participation in the labor force. Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson and senior Finance Ministry officials briefed ministers on the proposals on the issue.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Prime Minister’s Office National Economics Council Chairman Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg and the Director-General of the National Insurance Institute presented ministers with their views on the issue.

4. Pursuant to Basic Law: The Government, the Cabinet decided to transfer authority for non-Jewish communities from the Prime Minister’s Office (which were granted to it in the 21 December 2003 Cabinet decision) to the Interior Ministry; this decision will be submitted for Knesset approval.

5. The Cabinet rejected Minister Meshullam Nahari’s appeal against the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and Law Enforcement’s decision to approve certain amendments to the legislation on beverage container deposits.

6. The Cabinet accepted Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra’s appeal against the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and Law Enforcement’s decision to oppose MK Avshalom Vilan’s draft amendments to the legislation on beverage container recycling.

7. The Cabinet approved the wording of the memorandum on cooperation between the Public Security Ministry and the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS), which Public Security Minister Avi Dichter is due to sign at his 7 February 2007 meeting with USDHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. In its 24 December 2006 decision, the Cabinet appointed Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to be responsible for cooperation with the USDHS.

8. The Cabinet discussed changes in the activities of the Netiv Liaison Bureau and appointed an interministerial team to examine the issue and submit its conclusions to the Cabinet within 75 days.

9. Pursuant to Basic Law: The Army and in accordance with the recommendation of Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the Cabinet appointed Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gaby Ashkenazi as IDF Chief-of-Staff, effective 14 February 2007. Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz will conclude his tenure as IDF Chief-of-Staff upon Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ashkenazi’s assumption of the post.

The IDF Chief-of-Staff will serve for four years. The Government shall be entitled – in exceptional circumstances only – to extend his tenure for an additional period not to exceed one year.

Prime Minister Olmert said: “Gaby is an esteemed commander and leader with a very impressive record of IDF service. I have no doubt that he will lead the IDF in dealing with everything that it needs to deal with, to full proficiency and to the achievements that are essential to the security of the State of Israel. On behalf of myself and the entire government, I would like to take this opportunity both to congratulate him and to salute Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz for his brilliant service for the people of Israel.”

10. The Cabinet approved a multi-year plan for the development of sewage infrastructure in communities in the non-Jewish sector.