(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 24 February 2008:

1. The Cabinet discussed the issue of relations between the Government, civilian society and the business sector in contributing towards the attainment of public goals.  See further details, including the complete text of the Cabinet’s decision, the policy statement and a Powerpoint presentation (Hebrew).

2. The Cabinet discussed draft amendments to the 2007 Courts Law.

3. The Cabinet approved a plan to reinforce residential units, via the construction of 9 sq. meter protected spaces, in a range of up to 4.5 kilometers from the fence around the Gaza Strip. This range was set in light of the need to protect the forward line that is exposed to fire and given the planned capability of the Iron Dome system, which is due to be operational and in place during 2010.

The Cabinet approved a NIS 327 million budget for implementing the first stage of the plan in Sderot, Nir Am, Gabim, Erez, Ibim, Zikim, Netiv Ha’asara, Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom, Kisufim, Mefalsim and Kramiya. The Construction and Housing Ministry will have overall responsibility for the plan, which is to be completed during the first quarter of 2009.

There are approximately 8,000 residential units within 4.5 kilometers of the fence around the Gaza Strip that currently lack protected spaces and which were built prior to 1992, when legislation requiring their construction in all new housing units came into effect.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks:

"This overall investment of NIS 327 million will – by 2010 – enable us to give a worthy response within a multi-layered system for protecting the residents of Sderot and other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. There is absolutely no intention to reinforce every residential unit and every structure and there is no extreme reinforcement, as I have said over time, there cannot be. On the other hand, there will be a combination of several systems, with the Iron Dome system first and foremost. It will provide a response to a significant portion of the actual threat posed by rockets – with various ranges – against the residents of the region. There will also be early-warning systems and the reinforcing of new public structures and schools. I would like to remind everyone – and this will be detailed today – that we are building 14 new schools there, alongside the schools that will be reinforced. Every school in Sderot and in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip will be a third-generation school, of a quality and sophistication unparalleled anywhere in the country. This is an investment of hundreds of millions of shekels, which joins other investments that have been made, which approaches NIS 1.5 billion in order to strengthen the area and ensure both security and quality of life. In addition, of course, there is the daily war in the south, which claims a price of the terrorists that attack us.

In recent days, we have witnessed and very impressive and encouraging display of the nation’s solidarity with the residents of Sderot. None of these displays is a substitute for the other things that need to be done. We must establish a multi-layered defensive system. We must complete Iron Dome. We must continue to fight terrorism in the south. We must reinforce we need to reinforce, the minimum that I think we have decided on. It is both correct and important to give expression to displays of solidarity. Thousands of people who have visited Sderot in recent days have, without doubt, given a better and stronger sense to the residents of Sderot, that they are not alone and that the Israel people are with them."

4. The Cabinet directed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to – via IDF Home Front Command – transfer NIS 2.2 million from the civilian emergency expenditure budget for reinforcing structures at Sapir College. This is in addition to the NIS 1.8 million approved by the Defense Ministry in November 2006 and the NIS 18 million decided on by Prime Minister Olmert and Education Minister Yuli Tamir.

5. The Cabinet discussed the issue of permits for Turkish workers in the construction sector.