At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 27 February 2005:

1. The Cabinet received security briefings by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, ISA Director Avi Dichter and Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi on last Friday’s murderous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, in which four Israeli citizens were murdered and approximately 50 were wounded.

On referring to the attack, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following remarks:

“The terrorist attack was perpetrated by members of Islamic Jihad. The orders came from Islamic Jihad elements in Syria; even though we know this for a certainty, the fact is not enough to absolve the Palestinian Authority (PA) of its responsibility for the departure of the terrorist and of its obligation to act against his partners in the crime. The immediate test for the PA will be in vigorous action against Islamic Jihad members. While the State of Israel is interested in advancing towards a settlement with the Palestinians, there will be no diplomatic progress, [there will be] no progress, until the Palestinians take strong action to eliminate the terrorist organizations and their infrastructures in the PA areas.

Recently, the State of Israel has been showing restraint in order to facilitate progress; however, it is clear that if the Palestinians do not begin to take vigorous action against terrorism, Israel will be compelled to step up military activity that is designed to protect the lives of Israeli citizens. I re-emphasize that there will be no diplomatic progress as long as the Palestinians do not act in accordance with their commitments and eliminate the terrorist organizations.

On behalf of the Government, I send condolences to the families [of the victims] and best wishes for a quick recovery to those who were wounded.”

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on the responses to the terrorist attack in the international arena and said that they were characterized by sharp condemnations and the hope that it would not hurt the current effort to put Israeli-Palestinian relations back on a track of dialogue and coordination instead of violence. Among those who issued condemnations was UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who issued a statement of sharp condemnation that expressed the hope that the terrorist attack would not be allowed to hurt the positive steps that have been taken recently by both sides. Also issuing condemnations were US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, who called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to condemn the attack without reservation. The German, British, Italian and Russian foreign ministers also referred to the attack; all of them condemned it and said that the Palestinian leadership must continue its efforts to prevent terrorism and violence.  Foreign Minister Shalom also detailed the responses to the attack in the Arab world.

2. The Cabinet discussed the incitement to violence and the displays of violence in the context of actions in opposition to the Disengagement Plan and the struggle against it. Ministers were briefed on these matters by ISA Director Avi Dichter, Attorney General Meni Mazuz, State Prosecutor Eran Shendar and the latter’s deputy. The foregoing senior officials referred to the extremist remarks against Prime Minister Sharon, the de-legitimization of the security establishment and the threats to disrupt daily life in the country. Following the discussion, the Cabinet decided as follows:

A) To establish within the Justice Ministry, in the framework of the State Prosecutor’s Office, a unit to deal with the legal aspects of phenomena of incitement to violence and rebellion and various displays of violence, including the blocking of roads, illegal demonstrations, and displays of violence against public officials in the context of the struggle against the Disengagement Plan. The unit will be headed by the Deputy State Prosecutor for Special Tasks, who will direct and operate the staff in accordance with the instructions of Attorney General Mazuz and State Prosecutor Shendar.

B) The unit’s attorneys will consider complaints that are submitted, will instruct the Israel Police and the security forces in dealing with events in this area, will appear in the courts for various proceedings on issues that require the presence of a prosecuting attorney, and will – under the appropriate circumstances – initiate investigations for incitement to violence and other displays of violence.

C) The unit will operate in coordination with the Israel Police, the IDF and the ISA in order coordinate overall systematic treatment of the phenomena. To this end, a joint steering committee composed of all of the aforementioned organizations will meet on a regular basis in order to coordinate activity in this area.

D) The Justice Ministry will allocate the necessary resources for its overall preparations ahead of the missions with which it has been assigned in the framework of the implementation of the Disengagement Plan in the fields of criminal, civil, administrative and High Court of Justice affairs, including the establishment of the abovementioned unit.

The approval of the Disengagement Plan by the Cabinet and the Knesset in the summer of 2004 has led to protest actions against the plan and against the Government by those who oppose disengagement. Beyond the legitimate public protest actions, opposition to the Plan has also seen severe and worrisome phenomena of incitement to violence and refusal, as well as various displays of violence, including threats and harassment directed against public officials, including members of the security forces – soldiers, police personnel and members of the ISA.

In the wake of Knesset approval of the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Law and the 20 February 2005 Cabinet decision on the evacuation of the settlements, it is expected that there will be an intensification in phenomena of incitement to violence and other displays of violence, and there are tangible concerns regarding illegal demonstrations, the blocking of roads and even incitement to rebellion, as well as an upsurge in incitement. Dealing with these severe and worrisome phenomena requires special preparation by law-enforcement authorities.

3. The Cabinet decided to approve in principle the draft of the 2005 Illegal Presence Law (Ban on Assistance) (Amendment #8) and authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve the final version of the draft law. The 1996 Illegal Presence Law (Ban on Assistance) (Emergency Provision) (hereinafter – the law) is hereby extended until 14 March 2005. The law prohibits – inter alia – the rendering of assistance (employment, lodging and transportation) to those residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip who are illegally present inside the State of Israel. In the wake of the prevailing security situation in the State of Israel, the various security services have found that it is necessary to employ legal means against those who provide support to those persons illegally present in Israel.

4. The Cabinet, in accordance with Article 24b(iii) of the 1995 Security Service Law, approved the decision of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra that the number of IDF veterans who will be assigned to Prison Service security units will stand at 210. This stems from the decision to transfer overall responsibility for IDF prison installations for security prisoners to the Prison Service. The law stipulates that the authority to determine the number of IDF veterans who will be transferred to the Prison Service in order to be assigned to security units rests with the Defense Minister and the Public Security Minister, with the approval of the Cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

5. The Cabinet approved the appointment of Professor Michael Beller to the economic directorate of the National Surveying and Assessment Authority, effective 1 March 2005.

6. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with Article 26b of the 1982 Communications Law (Bezek and Broadcasts), to approve the proposal of Communications Minister Dalia Itzik and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and appoint Noga Rubinstein as the Justice Ministry representative on the Cable and Satellite Broadcast Council, in place of Roni Talmor.

7. The Cabinet discussed the issue of establishing a committee to examine the issue of declassifying material from the Agranat Commission of Inquiry into the 1973 Yom Kippur War and decided as follows: In accordance with Article 24b(i) of the 1969 Commissions of Inquiry Law, that it is necessary to consider preventing the declassification of the classified sections of the Agranat Commission report lest substantial harm be done to the security of the state, its foreign relations and individual privacy, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will appoint a public committee to decide whether or not the various directives and restrictions determined by the Agranat Commission should be either extended or amended either wholly or in part.

In accordance with Article 24b(ii) of the 1968 Commissions of Inquiry Law, the public committee will be composed of:
     a) A retired Supreme Court or District Court judge, who will chair the committee, to be determined by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak;
     b) A public official or a retired public official, to be determined by Prime Minister Sharon; and
     c) A public official to be determined by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin after consulting with at least two editors from major media organs.
The committee will be appointed no later than 15 March 2005.

8. The Cabinet decided, in continuation of its previous decisions on the issue, and without changing the amount allocated in the state budget to supporting students at religious institutions, that state support for Torah studies institutions for students over 23 will be equal to the support provided to studies under 23. The Cabinet also decided to set a mechanism in which students engaged in advanced Torah studies will be encouraged to join the workforce. In its previous decisions, the Cabinet set rules regarding support for Torah studies institutions in order to encourage students engaged in advanced Torah studies will be encouraged to join the workforce.

The 2002 law which provided for the postponement of military service for full-time Torah studies students determined that those students who were eligible for military service but who had received postponement orders for five years and who had turned 23, and who studied at least 45 hours a week, would be eligible to work in order to supplement their income. In order encourage students engaged in advanced Torah studies will be encouraged to join the workforce, the Cabinet decided that the support for those students who had turned 23 would be reduced by 40% relative to the support provided to those who had to turn 23. Most students who have turned 23 head large families.

The aforementioned Cabinet decision lowered the financial resources for these families, the financial resources of which were also reduced by the cuts in child support payments that the Government has decided upon. Therefore, the Cabinet decided on identical rates of support for students who have yet to turn 23 and for students over that age.

9. The Cabinet discussed the appointment of Nahman Gat to the post of Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Advanced Training Fund for Academics in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

10. Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz raised the issue of bank credit to local authorities.