(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting (Sunday, 17 August 2008):

A.  The Cabinet decided:

1.      As a good will gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu-Mazen, to recommend before the authorized bodies to release approximately 200 Palestinian prisoners and detainees in conjunction with the criteria approved in Cabinet Decisions: (Decision 468), 6 July 2003, (Decision 606), 27 July 2003 and (Decision 3241), and in accordance to the instructions of Attorney General, Manny Mazuz.

2.      The Ministerial Committee for the Release of Palestinian Prisoners (Henceforth: The Ministerial Committee) will decide on behalf of the Cabinet, on the release of Palestinian prisoners and the exact time thereof.

3.      The Ministerial Committee is hereby authorized, for considerations to be noted, to exceed the criteria boundaries according to which no prisoner will be released who served less than two-thirds of his sentence and is also hereby authorized to decide, in discrepancy with the criteria, that two prisoners "with blood on their hands" may be released.

4.      The organization for implementing the release, as well as the formulation of the list of  prisoners and detainees who meet the criteria, will by conducted by the Coordinating Committee chaired by the Justice Ministry, Dir.-Gen., Moshe Shela (Henceforth: The Committee), in which representatives of all the relevant bodies will participate.

5.      The Committee will submit its recommendations and conclusions to the Ministerial Committee which will be authorized to approve them on behalf of the Cabinet.

B. The Cabinet decided to increase assistance to Holocaust Survivors as follows:

1.      In continuation to the recommendations of the Dorner Commission of Inquiry into Assistance to Holocaust Survivors   (Henceforth: The Report or the Committee, accordingly), and the special inter-organization staff work in its wake, to adopt the main points of the report and to implement complementary steps to assist Holocaust survivors living in Israel.

2.      The actions detailed in this decision constitute a completion of the program to assist Holocaust survivors that was approved in Cabinet Decisions (Decision 2534), 4.11.07, and (Decision 2941), 13.1.08, as were implemented, among others, in the framework of "Benefits for Needy Holocaust Survivors" Law (Amendments), 2008.

3.      In this framework the following steps are to be implemented:

a.      To increase monthly stipends in accordance with "Benefits for Needy Holocaust Survivors" Law, 1957.      

b.      Continue efforts by the Finance Ministry’s Bureau of Rehabilitation to improve services to Holocaust survivors.

c.      Establish proper working relations between the Government and the Claims Committee, which will formulate a clear inter-organization work model that guarantees the flow of funds to the Holocaust survivors, according to the Committee’s recommendations.

d.      Services to Holocaust Survivors and steps to be taken to assist in the fulfillment of their rights.

C. The Cabinet decided, in accordance to Art. 31(d) of Basic Law: The Government, to transfer the specific fields from the Ministry of Education, Division for Adult Education to the Ministry of Pensioner Affairs:

D. Pursuant to Article 23 of the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Cabinet approved the appointment of Mr. Ayman Saif, present Director for the Establishment of the Economic Development Authority in the Minority Sector, Prime Minister’s Office to Director, Economic Development Authority in the Minority Sector, Prime Minister’s Office.

E. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and his assistants presented before the Cabinet the objectives for the 2009 economic policy and the principles which guided them in formulating those goals.
Finance Minister Bar-On noted that the State of Israel finds itself in a complicated period of a global economic crisis and cautions to refrain from mixing politics in economic policy formulation.  This complex reality places a heavy burden on the Government and necessitates unity of all its Ministers around the policy goals which were set upon forming the present Government.  The Finance Minister emphasized the importance of maintaining fiscal discipline and the concern of breaching the framework, especially under the threat of receding growth rates and raising inflation.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made these comments during the meeting:

"We expect the coming year to see recessionary processes in the world economy as well as a rise in inflation which could adversely affect the Israeli economy.

The expectation for 2008 is that it will end with significant growth for the Israeli economy, higher than that of any other western economy.  This is the result of well balanced fiscal policy and monetary discipline, instituted at times under very difficult circumstances by the Ministry of Finance, with the backing of the Government.

In recent years we have engraved in our conscious an order of priorities in which Education, welfare and security are at the apex.  The subjects of education and welfare are not just social issues and the artificial distinction between welfare and defense are unacceptable to me.  I was pleased to hear the statements by the Defense Minister in recent days saying that defense, first of all, is education and welfare. These issues continue to stand at the top of our priorities and they will come before the Cabinet’s discretion.

There are two central concerns which each Minister is responsible for.  First, he is responsible for his ministry’s budgetary obligations, and the issues which constitute that ministry’s priorities, and I expect each Minister to give expression to those priorities and to the matters on his Ministry’s agenda.  Additionally, there is a shared joint responsibility of each Government Minister, and of the Government as a Government, towards the national economy. 

This is not a matter from which Ministers can disregard their responsibilities.  Each Minister must find the correct balance between his demands upon his office’s budget and the total picture of national needs.  Also, something that I will not fathom, and is totally unacceptable, I will not accept the stances of factions in the budget discussion.  It has never been so and it will not be so now."

The cabinet discussed the issues which were raised in the briefing presented by Finance Ministry officials.