(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 20 January 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert briefed the ministers on his visit to Sderot and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip last week:

“Last Thursday evening, I visited the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, including Sderot. My visit followed a day during which dozens of rockets were fired at the communities adjacent to the
Gaza Strip in response to the operational successes of the IDF and ISA and severe losses to both Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Our activity as a government, in response to the attacks from the Gaza Strip, rests on two foundations.  The first is continuous and intensive operations against terrorists in the Gaza Strip and the second is concern for the population under relentless and intolerable Gaza Strip-based terrorist attacks.

Communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip are much better reinforced today than they were a year ago.  We will continue to invest additional hundreds of millions of shekels in the area this year in order to strengthen the residents’ fortitude.  I found people there who are suffering but who do not intend to give in.  I found people who are courageously dealing with daily distress that is forced on them by the Kassams but who are determined to continue living in the region.  The Defense Ministry, via Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, is doing outstanding work in facilitating the conduct of daily life in the area.  There is a sense that there is a guiding hand and there are activities that assure the continuation of daily life.  The education system is operating normally and the achievements of area students on their matriculation exams – in wake of a program that we enacted in the schools – are among the highest in the country.  Today, there is no unemployment at all in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and I hope that we will be able to cause additional factories and investors to go there.

The second foundation of our activity is operational.  There is no doubt that the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are trying to use indiscriminate terrorism in order to force a war of attrition on us and to create an equation of force in which they respond with dozens of rockets to harsh strikes against their personnel.  Israel cannot live with such an equation.  The communities of the south will not be hostage to the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.  We will continue to act with strength, sophistication, courage and determination.   The objective is to bring about the cessation of Kassam rocket fire and not to agree to any balance of terror.  The terrorist organizations are starting to understand that Israel is determined.  Their leadership is perplexed over how to act in light of the strikes against them.  There are those among them who have begun to understand that it would be better to refrain from further firing.  In any case, we will not slacken our operations until peace is assured for the residents of the south.”

2. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Head of the IDF Intelligence Branch Research Department  briefed the ministers on current security issues.

3. The Cabinet discussed the formation of a steering committee for the establishment of a museum that would exhibit selected items from the State Archive and other archives. 

4. The Cabinet approved a detailed proposal on the coordination of budgetary funding for upgrading and maintaining public shelters in the north. 

5. The Cabinet approved the transfer of responsibility for national civilian service from the Social Welfare and Social Services Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).  The team that has overseen the establishment of the Civilian National Service Authority, headed by Dr. Reuven Gal, has thus completed its work; the Authority is established and under the aegis of the
PMO.

The Civilian National Service Authority will be a government branch, the goal of which is to strengthen solidarity between citizen and state.  The Authority will recruit young people, citizens of the State of Israel from all population groups, who do not serve in the security services, to volunteer a year or two of their time for activities that are useful to society as a whole and weaker strata in particular.  Civilian national service will strengthen volunteers’ professional abilities and prepare them for future employment.