(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 29 April 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert referred to Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day:

“Tomorrow evening, we will all gather at Yad Vashem in order to open the events that mark Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. Marking Holocaust Day, even as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel, is a very special event, in the context of which we mark both the fracture and the dream that sprang from it.  It is thus appropriate that Holocaust Day this year will highlight  the contribution of the survivors to building and establishing Israel.

During the past year, this Government dealt at length with the issue of Holocaust survivors, after the topic was neglected for 60 years. Our goal was to ensure that we will no longer see Holocaust survivors rooting through garbage bins, and we made decisions to achieve this goal. I hope that by this Government activity, in which the survivors’organizations were full partners, we have brought some relief to those survivors who are in dire economic straits.  If we thereby alleviated their plight, in the Jewish state, it is enough.”

Yad Vashem Board of Directors Chairman Avner Shalev and Yad Vashem Council Chairman Joseph (Tommy) Lapid briefed the Cabinet on (A) the attitude shown by Israelis and the nations of the world to the Holocaust in recent years; (B) the contributions of Yad Vashem and Holocaust survivors in raising awareness of the Holocaust; and (C) the major contribution of Holocaust survivors to the establishment of the State of Israel.

2. The Cabinet discussed the situation in Sderot and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip in light of the fighting there.  Prime Minister Olmert made the following remarks: “Since the morning, the communities of the western Negev have been under Kassam missile and mortar fire.  One of the rockets even directly struck a house; luckily, nobody was hurt.  These barrages join the 18 Kassam rockets that were fired at Israel yesterday.

The background to this latest escalation is yesterday’s IDF action in the northern Gaza Strip, in an effort to foil terrorist actions directed against Israel.  During the activity, IDF forces identified a terrorist cell that was operating amidst a civilian population, from within a settled area.  The IDF’s attempt to strike directly at the cell, as well as the ensuing exchanges of fire, ended tragically when a mother and her four children were killed as they ate breakfast.

The IDF is investigating the event  and checking whether the family was hit by fire from our forces or as the result of the explosion of bombs being carried by the terrorists.  In any case, this was a tragic and regrettable incident that resulted in innocents being hurt.  In contrast to our enemies in Hamas and the [other] terrorist organizations, who danced in the streets when a Kassam rocket led to the amputation of an eight-year-old Israeli boy’s leg, the Government and people of Israel are very much saddened when any innocent life is lost, and certainly the lives of a mother and her four children, in the context of the unavoidable fighting in the south, .  We are very saddened by this.

We are very saddened that Israeli citizens have been attacked for years.  We are saddened by the eight-year-old boy who lost a leg on 9 February, due to a Kassam rocket attack.  We are very saddened by the acts of terrorism that mar their lives, disrupt their quality of life and destroy their ability to lead quiet, secure and happy lives.  We are saddened that Hamas operates from within populated areas, turns the civilian population in Gaza to an inseparable part of its war and exposes this population – against our will and against our intention – to the sometimes likely possibility that it will be hit as a result of the undeniable and unavoidable need to defend the lives of those living in the south.

It is Hamas that bears full responsibility for the tragic events taking
place in the Gaza Strip.  It is this organization which perpetrates and encourages wide-ranging terrorism against Israel from within the heart of populated areas.  It has brought ruin upon two peoples and it feeds the cycle of blood and tragedy.  This organization tries to harm hundreds of thousands of Israelis every day and rejoices every time it does so.  It systematically inflicts misery on Gazans’ lives and has tried repeatedly to strike at the crossings that constitute a lifeline for them.

For its part, Israel makes every effort to avoid hitting innocent civilians, investigates and applies the lessons, and is preventing a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas is interested in promoting.  We will have no truck with these despicable terrorists and will continue our struggle against them until quiet and security are achieved for the residents of Israel.

I very much hope that the brutal fighting by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip against Israeli citizens will stop. But as long as it does not, we will need to fight in order to defend ourselves.  We are saddened whenever uninvolved civilians are killed, and I believe that our sadness is more genuine, more sincere and more painful than the false and self-righteous sadness of the terrorist organizations, which expose their civilians to situations that end in such tragedies.”

3. GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin briefed the Cabinet on current security issues.

4. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On briefed the Cabinet on the changes that will be taken into account in formulating the annual economic policy, as well as on the planned timetable for the 2009 state budget. 

5. Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim, Construction and Housing Ministry Director-General Chaim Fialkof and their aides briefed the Cabinet on the main principles of Ministry activity. 

6. The Cabinet discussed policy regarding ministers’ visits abroad and decided to amend the relevant directives. 

7. The Cabinet discussed the appointment of a Equal Rights for the Disabled Commissioner.