(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 6 January 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed US President George Bush’s visit to Israel: “This Wednesday, US President George Bush will arrive on his first visit as President. This is an important visit, during which we will have the opportunity to discuss a series of issues regarding the security and future of Israel. We expect in-depth discussions on the continuation of the negotiations with the Palestinians. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will brief President Bush on the negotiations and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will brief him on the security situation both in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria. The President will also be briefed on the defense measures that must continue in order to assure the security of Israel’s citizens. 

The Iranian nuclear issue – including the steps that must continue to be taken in order to prevent this process – will certainly be on the agenda. US President Bush holds to a policy, the foundation of which is a complete obligation to the security of Israel; he declares this time and again. He is a great friend of Israel who absolutely understands our security needs and is interested in leading – in full partnership with us – steps designed to assure peace and security for Israel’s citizens. I await the President’s visit and believe that it will be successful and fruitful.”

2. Prime Minister Olmert also said, “Last Thursday, rockets with increased range were fired at Ashkelon. Luckily, there were no casualties or damage. Of course, Israel has responded, and will respond, to this escalation. We do so in a considered and precise manner, with minimum casualties on our side, and in the most painful place for the terrorist organizations. After successful strikes against Islamic Jihad, we will continue with intensive action in the Gaza Strip in order to achieve quiet. At the same time, we will continue to invest in Sderot and the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip in order to strengthen the residents’ fortitude.”

3. Defense Minister Barak briefed the ministers on current security issues, including the actions of the Palestinian terrorist organizations and the responses of Israeli security forces.

4. Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Shalom Simhon briefed the ministers on the outbreak of bird flu in Binyamina. 

5. Senior Jewish People Policy Planning Institute directors presented the ministers with the JPPPI’s 2007 Annual Assessment. 

6. The Cabinet decided to extend South Lebanon Army veterans’ current eligibility for rent subsidies until 31 March 2008.

The Director of the Prime Minister’s Office Division for Coordination, Follow-up and Control heads the committee for dealing with former SLA veterans in Israel. The committee will prepare a comprehensive plan for former SLA veterans in Israel.

7. The Cabinet approved the Ministerial Committee on Reserve Duty’s 30 December 2007 decision regarding a series of benefits for reservists.

8. The Cabinet discussed the disbursement of support payments to eligible Holocaust survivors. 

9. The Cabinet discussed increasing local councils’ independent sources of income.

10. Pursuant to the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Cabinet extended Frieda Yisraeli’s appointment as Acting Director of the Finance Ministry State Revenue Division until 17 March 2008 or until the end of Director Yehoshua Vita’s suspension, whichever comes first. 

11. The Cabinet approved the appointment of four new members to the Anti-Drug Authority Council.

12.  Pursuant to the 1988 Anti-Drug Authority Law, the Cabinet extended Haim Messing’s term as Authority Director-General until 29 February 2008.

13. In light of the continuation of hostile activities based in the Gaza Strip and in continuation of its 27 November 2006 decision, the Cabinet approved an assistance plan for Sderot and the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip for 2008.  NIS 23,375 will be allocated for health, education and other forms of assistance.  This will be added to previous Government plans, the implementation of which has yet to be completed. 

14. Pursuant to its powers as stated in Article 31 of Basic Law: The Government, the Cabinet established a new Ministry of Religious Services and appointed Minister Yitzhak Cohen as Religious Services Minister.

15. The Cabinet agreed to extend the temporary housing rights of families who were evacuated from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria and who are eligible to join a relocation agreement according to Article 85 of the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law. The ministers established a steering committee to handle the details.

16. The Cabinet approved the draft 2008 Electricity Law and authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and Law Enforcement to approve the final version, which will be submitted to the Knesset.