(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 20 July 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert noted that last Thursday, 17 July 2008, the late Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser  were laid to rest: "On behalf of the entire Government of Israel, I would like to offer condolences to the families, who are now observing the week of mourning after an unending two-year struggle to bring about the boys’ release.

To our regret, the reports of the boys’ deaths were certain months and weeks beforehand.  After unparalleled efforts, Israel’s intelligence services succeeded in placing before me and the entire Government a base of hard and certain data as we came to decide on the implementation of the deal with Hezbollah.  The Government knew exactly what to expect and what price we would have to pay for the soldiers’ bodies.  We made the decision out of clear awareness and, in the end, what tipped the scales in favor of carrying out the deal was the abiding moral consideration stemming from the State of Israel’s obligation to every soldier that is sent to defend it, and to his family that expects the State to do its utmost to bring him back home.

Last Wednesday night, after Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and I paid our respects to the soldiers and their families, I telephoned the Shalit family and promised, on behalf of all of us, that we would do everything in order to bring Gilad Shalit  back home, alive, healthy and whole, with all possible speed.  I do not need to tell you that it will not be simple, and it will not be easy.  As we worked non-stop for two years in order to bring back Udi and Eldad, so we are working for Gilad Shalit.  I believe that Gilad Shalit will return home healthy and whole.  We will not rest, and we will not be silent, until we bring him back home.  On that same day, my heart was also with the Arad family; efforts to obtain information on Ron Arad’s  fate will continue."

2. GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin gave the ministers a current intelligence picture of Israel’s situation regarding Hezbollah in the north, Hamas in the south, and the Iranian nuclear issue.

3. Pursuant to Article 23 of the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Cabinet appointed Prof. Gabriela Shalev as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, in place of Danny Gillerman, who is completing his term.

4. The Cabinet decided to establish an interministerial team to formulate a working plan for considering the construction of a new city for Israel’s non-Jewish population in the north and to submit its recommendations to the Cabinet by the end of 2008. 

5. The Cabinet was briefed on the Shohat Committee report on the higher education system in Israel.