(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 17 February 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert eulogized the late Tom Lantos:

“Last week, US Rep. Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, passed away. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made a special trip to the US capitol to represent the State and Government of Israel at the memorial ceremony for him. 

Tom Lantos was a Jew, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, who moved to the US after World War II, lived on America’s west coast and served his California district in the House of Representatives from 1980 until his passing. Throughout his career, he worked out of an abiding faith that US strategic interests were connected to the strength, security and prosperity of the State of Israel. He supported Israel boldly and firmly throughout his Congressional career. Shortly before his death, so his wife told me, he summoned his family members around him and, with his last strength, told them never to forget the State of Israel. He then closed his eyes. 

I had proposed that the Government of Israel award a special citation to Tom Lantos to express its deep appreciation and the exceptional friendship between us, and I managed to tell him this before he passed away, a few days ahead of his eightieth birthday. So, he knew of the State of Israel’s intention to honor him, although he did not live to receive the formal award. I thank Foreign Minister Livni for representing the State and Government of Israel and, on behalf of the Government, I send condolences to his family and to the US Congress.”

2. Prime Minister Olmert referred to the issue of structural reinforcement in Sderot and other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip:

“After today’s Cabinet meeting, there will be a ministerial consultation on the issue of structural reinforcement in Sderot and other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The Government has several tracks for dealing with this issue.  First of all, there is the operational activity of the IDF and the security establishment. I have already said that there is an almost daily war in the south and terrorist leaders are certainly a target, and we will not slacken on this issue; we will continue to struggle in order to reduce to nil the threat that is upsetting the quality of life of residents of the south. Of course, there are also other measures that we are using, such as sanctions and reducing the supply of materials that could serve the terrorist organizations, including energy, and these are being carried out according to the decision of the Cabinet, in coordination with the security establishment at the behest of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with my assent.

I think that Israel is acting correctly, prudently and responsibly. These actions may not be popular but they are an important part of counter-terrorist activity. On the reinforcement issue, we have invested hundreds of millions of shekels in public and educational institutions. We are building 13 new schools, which will be completely reinforced. Today, we will also discuss the issue of home reinforcement. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry have been dealing with this for a long time. You will recall that NIS 50 million was transferred in early January as per the commitment that was given in the Knesset to advance this issue. Today, proposals will be formulated, which will be submitted for Cabinet approval next week and which are designed to complete home reinforcement. As was mentioned, this activity is being carried out by the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.”

3. Prime Minister Olmert recalled and praised former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on the 39th anniversary of the latter’s death. 

4. The Cabinet heard the following briefings:

A.  Prime Minister Olmert briefed ministers on his trip to Berlin last week, including his meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said that Israeli-German relations were a main pillar of Israel’s relations with Europe. He referred to Germany’s leading position in Europe and its friendship with Israel and asserted that under Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, Israeli-German relations were marked by outstanding friendship with special commitment on the main issues.

B. Defense Minister Barak briefed ministers on current security matters and said that the elimination of Imad Mughniyeh was a severe blow both to Hezbollah and to global terrorism. He added that Israel has no interest in an escalation in the north but added that Israel is being blamed, Israel is prepared and will not ignore the possibility that Hezbollah might act. The Defense Minister discussed his visit to Turkey last week and said that he had updated his Turkish hosts on Israel’s position on the main regional issues.

C. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Israel Police Inspector-General Dudi Cohen briefed ministers on the struggle against crime and on the Israel Police’s future intentions. 

5. The Cabinet discussed further assistance to local and regional councils that absorbed evacuees from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria and decided to provide a further NIS 10 million for 2008.

6. Pursuant to the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments) and in accordance with the recommendation of the Civil Service Committee, the Cabinet decided to exempt from public tender the position of director of the national plan for children and youth at risk, and to appoint a committee to search for and select a suitable candidate. 

7. Pursuant to the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Cabinet decided to update the list of senior civil service positions that will be filled with the approval of the Cabinet.