Jerusalem, 29 May 2001

Cabinet Communique
(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

The Cabinet held a special meeting today (Tuesday), 29.5.2001, on the recent Versailles Hall disaster in Jerusalem, and honored the memory of the victims by observing a minute’s silence. OC Home Front Maj.-Gen. Gaby Ophir and Israel Police Jerusalem District Commander Mickey Levy briefed the Cabinet on the disaster and the rescue work carried out by the IDF Home Front, the police, Magen David Adom, the hospitals and many civilian volunteers. The full cooperation of the various groups was noted. Levy also briefed the Cabinet on the police investigation. Prime Minister Sharon praised the exemplary work of the various groups involved.

On behalf of the Cabinet, Prime Minister Sharon sent condolences to the bereaved families and best wishes for a quick recovery to those who were injured in the disaster.

Prime Minister Sharon said that far too many incidents occur due to mistakes and negligence, and added that, therefore, he was proposing the establishment of a state commission of inquiry, in accordance with the views of both Justice Minister Meir Shetrit and Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein. The Cabinet adopted the Prime Minister’s proposal by 19-1 and decided to establish a state commission of inquiry to investigate the safety of buildings and places designed for public use.

In its decision, the Cabinet determined that the safety of buildings and places designated for public use is a vital public issue that demands clarification. The Cabinet thus decided to establish a commission of inquiry in accordance with the 1969 Commissions of Inquiry Law. The commission will examine the full range of professional and legal questions related to the safety of buildings and places designed for public use, including – and especially – those hosting well-attended public functions, as well as education, sports and recreational facilities, without impinging on the police investigation into the Versailles Hall disaster. The commission will be free to decide its own work schedule in accordance with a preliminary investigation and may issue interim reports if it so desires.

Supreme Court President Aharon Barak will be notified of the Cabinet’s decision; the Cabinet will confer with him on the number of commission members (in accordance with Article Three of the 1969 law).

The Cabinet directed Public Security Minister Uzi Landau to submit a proposal – within two weeks – on the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team on large-scale events which was established in 1995 following the Arad disaster. The team presented its recommendations in September 1999. Minister Landau will also relate to the need to formulate procedures on dealing with large-scale disasters.

The Cabinet decided to establish a team headed by the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office – and with the participation of representatives of the Finance, Interior and Education ministries – to submit draft proposals on the issue of responsibility for the safety of educational structures.

Construction and Housing Minister Natan Sharansky will examine the issue of construction methods in the private sector and will submit proposals accordingly.