(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly cabinet meeting today (Monday), 2 May 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following remarks:

“I want to inform the cabinet that this morning I received a letter from Minister Natan Sharansky in which he announces his resignation.  I want to express my appreciation of Natan, not regarding his letter, because I would be very pleased if he would continue serving, and thank him and commend him for his work on the issues that fell within his responsibility.  I think that he did exceptional work in dealing with anti-Semitism around the world and it seems to me that his contribution in this area is very large and very extensive.  I have known him for many years.  He is very pleasant to work with and his achievements have been impressive in every field that he has dealt with.  He is not here today; he did not come to the cabinet meeting.  I would like to wish him success and to emphasize that his achievements have been impressive in the all of the fields that he has dealt with.  We will need to continue dealing with these issues because they are vital to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

2. In light of the national interest in developing the Galilee and on the basis of the understanding that the government views – as being of national importance – the establishment of a university there as the main engine of its regional development, the cabinet discussed the establishment of a university in the Galilee.

The cabinet decided to assign to Education, Culture, and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, in cooperation with Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who is responsible for the development of the Galilee and the Negev, the responsibility of checking on the possibility of establishing a university in the Galilee, in coordination with the Council for Higher Education and the appropriate planning bodies, in the framework of their respective areas of authority, while taking into account the various national, academic, planning, budgetary and other considerations on the issue.

Minister Livnat (who also chairs the Council for Higher Education) will report to the cabinet within 120 days vis-a-vis progress on the issue.

Establishing a university in the area is likely to greatly contribute both to the development of the Galilee and its status as a favored area that will attract new populations, and strengthen higher education in the area.

3. The cabinet also discussed Minister Livnat’s proposal to convert the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel into a university and determined that it views strengthening higher education in the area as being of national importance.

The cabinet decided to assign to Minister Livnat, in her capacity as chairwoman of the Council for Higher Education (see above), the responsibility of examining the issue, in coordination with the council and the appropriate planning bodies, while taking into account the various national, academic, planning, budgetary, and other considerations on the issue.

Minister Livnat will report to the cabinet within 120 days vis-a-vis progress on the issue.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he ascribes great importance to converting the college in Ariel, which has 7,000 students, into a university, because it is in keeping with government policy, which views strengthening the settlement blocs as being among its goals.  He also said that the joint proposal to establish a university in the Galilee is very important and in keeping with the government’s policy of strengthening the Galilee.

4. The cabinet decided to ratify the extension of the July 2001 accompanying protocol to the aviation agreement between Israel and the US and assume the foreign minister’s authority to carry out the decision.

The Israeli-US Air Transport Agreement was signed in June 1950. The accompanying protocol was drawn up at Israel’s initiative and was designed to add to the air transport agreement a clause that would provide for code-sharing and enable the implementation of the agreement that was signed between El Al and Delta.  The protocol was signed in Jerusalem on 11 July 2001 and was valid until 31 March 2004; by mutual agreement, its validity was extended for one year and is now – at the request of the Americans and with Israel’s consent – extended for another year.

5. The cabinet approved for the director of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women the salary and services status of a ministry director-general.  The directors of other government authorities that promote national issues have such ministry director-general status; therefore, the cabinet decided to approve similar status for the director of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women.

6. The cabinet discussed the issue of assistance to communities in the area around the Gaza Strip, designating them as a confrontation line area regarding preferences in Defense Ministry tenders, and decided, in continuation of its previous decisions on the issue, to designate these communities as a confrontation line area regarding the 1988 law on tenders and preferences for the products of national priority areas.

To this end, “Gaza area communities” are those communities in the Shaar Hanegev, Ashkelon Coast, Sdot Hanegev and Eshkol regional council areas whose homes are within seven kilometers of the fence around the Gaza Strip:

Shaar Hanegev Ashkelon Coast Sdot Hanegev Eshkol Eshkol (cont.) Or Haner Gevaram Saad Avshalom Nir Yitzhak Ibim Zikim Alumim Beeri Nir Oz Erez Yad Mordechai Kfar Maimon Hulit Nirim Gabim Karmiya Zimrat Dekel Sufa Yachini Netiv Ha’asara Shokeda Yevul Ein Habesor Kfar Aza   Shuva Yesha Ein Hashlosha Mefalsim   Tekuma Yated Amioz Nahal Oz   Tusiya Kisufim Pri Gan Nir Am     Kerem Shalom Re’im       Mivtahim Sde Avraham       Magen Talmei Yosef

This decision adds to the definition of “confrontation line” in the bylaws.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will work to formulate the necessary changes in the legislation in order to implement this decision, assisted by the Prime Minister’s Office.

In its relevant decisions from last year, the government saw fit to extend benefits and assistance from the various ministries in order to strengthen and establish both the greater Sderot area and the Gaza area communities.  In its 23.1.05 decision, the cabinet considered classifying the Gaza area communities as a confrontation line area as per the foregoing.  Thus, the cabinet has determined that the Gaza area communities will also receive preferences in Defense Ministry tenders as are given to confrontation line areas.

7. The cabinet decided, in accordance with the 1965 Broadcasting Authority Law, to accept the proposal of Minister Ehud Olmert, who has been charged with the responsibility of implementing the law, and remove Yosef Barel as Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) director-general.

The cabinet will, at its next meeting, consider Minister Olmert’s proposal for the appointment of an acting IBA director-general, following consultations with Prime Minister Sharon.

Minister Olmert will consult with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on the procedures for appointing a new IBA director-general.