The Cabinet discussed US aid for security, the situation of Holocaust survivors living in Israel, ways to strengthen the economy, preparations for the upcoming sabbatical (shmittah) year, the Brodet Committee report on security, and a new educational program in the city of Lod.

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 29 July 2007,

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed several issues on the agenda.

He noted that over the weekend, the US officially announced an increase in security assistance to Israel over the next decade, at a rate of NIS 3 billion per annum.  In practice, security assistance will grow by 25% over the next decade.  “This increase was made possible by a series of talks we held with the US during which the understanding was reached that Israel’s qualitative edge in the region had to be maintained, as well as its capabilities against the threats we are facing.  The agreement in principle on the increase in assistance was achieved in a private talk I had with President George Bush during my most recent visit to the US. I thank him and Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, from whose department foreign assistance is paid, for understanding Israel’s security needs and for supporting my request to increase the assistance. This is a positive contribution to Israel’s security and to assuring its future capabilities. It will enable us to significantly strengthen the security establishment and to develop measures and systems that will provide responses to the threats we will face in the next decade. 

"It must be pointed out that the assistance does not exist in a vacuum.  The US also promised military assistance and weapons to the moderate Arab countries.  Today, these countries are at the forefront of the global struggle between the moderates and the extremists. Iranian-led Islamic fundamentalism threatens them as well, and in the framework of their being strengthened, there is the commitment that the weapons will not be used against Israel.”

Prime Minister Olmert said: “Approximately two months ago, on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, I promised that my Government would prepare a plan to assist Holocaust survivors. Staff work began at once under the direction of Social Welfare and Social Services Minister Yitzhak Herzog.  To my regret, he discovered that the State of Israel lacked even a single database from which it could be learned how many Holocaust survivors live in Israel and what their situation is.  I am pleased to announce that despite this, an assistance plan has been formulated and will be submitted to me tomorrow for approval.  The plan, which is worth hundreds of millions of shekels over several years, will provide a response to the broad population of Holocaust survivors in Israel, including those who immigrated here.  We will also try to mobilize additional, non-governmental resources for this important goal. 

"Overall, we will be seeking to increase assistance to every family of Holocaust survivors by hundreds of shekels a month.  It is clear to all of us that these people cannot be allowed to continue living in grinding poverty.  This week, I hope that we will be able to look Holocaust survivors in the eyes and honestly tell them that we intend to quickly implement what Israeli governments have not done for 60 years.”

On behalf of the Cabinet, Prime Minister Olmert congratulated Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his recent marriage.

2. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, senior Finance Ministry officials, and Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Raanan Dinur briefed ministers on the Finance Ministry’s proposal for structural changes in 2008.  These are designed to boost growth by encouraging competition and employment, strengthening weak populations, developing infrastructure (physical, capital and human), and increasing public sector efficiency. 

3. The Cabinet discussed preparations for the coming (2007-2008) Jewish sabbatical year. 

4. The Cabinet discussed the Brodet Committee recommendations on the security budget. 

5. The Cabinet continued its discussion of education assistance in the city of Lod.