(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 16 November 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the situation in the south: "The weekend was marked by another round of violence between us and the terrorist regime that controls the Gaza Strip. Several months ago, the terrorist organizations committed themselves to understandings, the goal of which was to achieve calm. Recently, they have repeatedly tried to frustrate these understandings – whether by digging tunnels designed to facilitate the perpetration of attacks and suicide actions against Israelis, by firing GRAD and Kassam rockets at civilian communities, and by attempts to attack IDF forces near the border fence. It is no secret that Israel did not wholeheartedly embrace the understandings that gave rise to the situation defined as calm but it honored them unilaterally. The responsibility for breaking the calm and creating a situation of recurrent violence in the South lies entirely with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations active in the Gaza Strip. Let nobody come to the Government of Israel and claim otherwise. 

Last week, I visited the IDF Gaza Division. In any case, we cannot tolerate the price that the terrorist organizations are trying to set for the prevailing situation there. It is our right to prevent further terrorism, threats and the breaking of the calm that is harming – first and foremost – the residents of the area. We have acted, and we will continue to act, by every proper means in order to prevent a situation in which this ‘calm’ is actually working against the security of the residents of Israel. Following last week’s Cabinet discussion and assessments that I held this past Friday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior defense establishment officials, I have instructed the latter to submit to me, as soon as possible, their proposals for formulating an action plan that will, if necessary, be submitted to the proper Government officials in order to restore full quiet in the South. I have also instructed that the ongoing discussions between the defense and legal establishments be brought to a close forthwith, so that the Cabinet might be briefed on the options for action against Hamas’s terrorist regime and its military arm, without their being subject to restrictions that could harm our ability to employ the necessary strength to respond to these violations of the calm. I know that tempers are rising and various voices are being heard. My Government has always acted, in such situations, with equanimity and sagacity in making its decisions, and thus we will act now."

2. Public Security Minister Avi Dicter and Israel Prison Service Commissioner Benny Kaniak briefed ministers on the situation in the IPS and on its 2009-2013 multi-year plan for improving prison conditions and the welfare and treatment of prisoners. 

Prime Minister Olmert commended IPS Commissioner Kaniak and the work of IPS personnel. He said, "We are a country that defines itself as enlightened and we think that we must uphold certain standards. We want to deal in rehabilitation. We want to offer alternatives that will facilitate the reduction of the prison population in the future, including both common criminals and terrorist criminals, who we would like to see not being dragged anew into terrorist activities, despite harsh and complex influences to the contrary."

3. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Water Commissioner Uri Shani briefed ministers on the projected water situation for 2009 and the next five years. 

4. The Cabinet discussed the issue of tender exemptions for various civil service positions. 

5. The Cabinet discussed urban renewal projects in Nahariya, Netanya, Rehovot and Tel Aviv.