The Cabinet recommended the release of approximately 250 Palestinian prisoners and detainees, in keeping with the criteria that have been determined in previous Cabinet decisions.

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 8 July 2007:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the Government would continue to conduct a responsible economic policy with “social compassion.”

He noted the passing of US Jewish community leader Sam Rothberg and conveyed his condolences – as well as those of the government and people of Israel – to his family.

The Prime Minister welcomed the new ministers and veteran ministers who have assumed new portfolios.

2. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin briefed ministers on current diplomatic and security matters.

3. The Cabinet discussed the issue of the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.  Ministers decided – with the goal of strengthening the Israel-Palestinian Authority (PA) relationship and as a gesture of goodwill to PA President Abu Mazen – to recommend the release of approximately 250 Palestinian prisoners and detainees, in keeping with the criteria that have been determined in previous Cabinet decisions, with the proviso that prisoners who have served less than two-thirds of their sentences will not be released. Provision will be made for medically based humanitarian cases.

The Cabinet also decided to establish a ministerial committee chaired by Prime Minister Olmert to deal with the release of the Palestinian prisoners. The release date will be determined according to circumstances and will take into account the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ commitments. The foregoing will be in accordance with both the approved criteria and the instructions of Attorney General Meni Mazuz. The committee will approve the list of prisoners and detainees to be released.

In addition to Prime Minister Olmert, the committee will include Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Transportation and Road Safety Minister Shaul Mofaz, Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Eli Yishai, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Interior Minister Meir Shetrit, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Minister Rafi Eitan.

Justice Ministry Director-General Moshe Shilo will chair a coordinating committee to formulate a list of names in accordance with the above. It will submit its list of names to the ministerial committee for approval.

4. The Cabinet discussed internal changes in the 2007 state budget and decided (inter alia):

A. To allocate budgetary supplements of NIS 1.3 billion as follows – NIS 456 million to education reforms, NIS 400 million for security costs, NIS 344 million to the home front (including for reinforcing educational institutions in communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, upgrading shelters in the north and for civil defense), and the remainder for other issues.

B. In order to finance the foregoing, the 2007 budgetary basis for government ministries will be lowered by 6%. These deductions will not apply to issues such as (inter alia): higher education; social welfare; the health insurance basket; local authorities; the plan for strengthening the north, Sderot and communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip; classroom construction; the plan for encouraging economic growth in Jerusalem, the plan to develop the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall plan and other 2007 priority issues.

5. The Cabinet was briefed on the recommendations of the committee chaired by outgoing Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon regarding a national information directorate and decided to establish a national information directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office:

The information directorate will direct and coordinate the State of Israel’s various information bodies in order to present a credible, unified and consistent information policy. The directorate will be chaired by someone with media and information experience and who has a security-diplomatic background.

Pursuant to the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Cabinet will consider a proposal that the Government, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, appoint the head of the information directorate and that he/she will be directly subordinate to the Prime Minister. The head of the directorate will attend all meetings of the Ministerial Committee on National Security, all security-diplomatic discussions and any additional relevant discussions. The head of the national information directorate will serve as the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser and have the civil service grade and conditions of service equivalent to those of a ministry director-general.

The information directorate will not replace the activity of any Government information body. Its role will be to direct and coordinate in the information sphere so that the relevant bodies present a unified, clear and consistent message and so that the various Government spokespersons speak with a single voice. The directorate will initiate information campaigns and programs, host events, etc.  The establishment of the directorate does not replace the information activities being done – and which need to continue being done – by the various ministries and bodies.

Full and comprehensive responsibility for foreign information will remain in the hands of the Foreign Ministry, the responsibilities of which will not be changed.

A regular national information forum (in the diplomatic-security sphere) will be established to determine the State of Israel’s information policy in keeping with the decisions of the Prime Minister and the Government and in accordance with the instructions of the head of the national information directorate.

6. The Cabinet approved a series of senior civil service appointments.

7. The Cabinet approved the composition of the search committee for the position of Equal Rights Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

8. Pursuant to the 1986 Security Service Law, the Cabinet approved the 2007 Security Service Order and asked the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee to approve it forthwith.  The Order lists recognized national service fields.

9. The Cabinet approved draft legislation regarding benefits for students of higher education who serve as reservists in the IDF.

10. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefed ministers on an electricity conservation campaign.

11. The Cabinet reduced the number of study courses for which members of the Israel Police are eligible.

12. Due to the security situation and the urgent needs of the IDF, the Cabinet decided to postpone the implementation of the recommendations of the committee on shortening compulsory service in the IDF for men.