(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday (Sunday), 15 May 2005:

1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on ongoing security and diplomatic matters. 

Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the following issues: The continued freeze on the transfer of cities in light of the Palestinians not implementing their commitments regarding fugitives; the continuing erosion in the “calm”, with an emphasis on the increase in the number of terrorist attacks; rockets launched at Israeli territory; the gap between Abu Mazen’s intentions and the lack of Palestinian action on the ground; the continued strengthening of Hamas as a “second authority,” in the political sphere in the wake of its achievements in the 5.5.05 local elections and in the military sphere; the establishing a people’s army under the nose of the Palestinian Authority (PA); security contacts with the PA ahead of the implementation of the Disengagement Plan and the security establishment’s continued preparations ahead of disengagement; and the resumption of heavy fire from southern Lebanon on Israeli territory.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom discussed the recent incident at the Israeli Embassy in Uzbekistan. A suspected suicide bomber arrived at the embassy last Friday morning. Despite the heat he was wearing a jacket and was holding a briefcase. The Israeli security guards notified the local police. A local policeman approached him, found that he was armed with an explosive belt and quickly ran away. Our security guard, a Russian speaker, heard the suspect shouting abusive comments against the Embassy and threatening to attack it. At this point, the Israeli guard took out his weapon and shouted at the man to stop. The Embassy’s security officer and an additional security guard joined him and also drew their weapons. The suspect did not answer their calls to stop and continued to move toward the security guards, who were 15-20 meters away from him. The security officer and one of the security guards carried out the procedure for arresting a suspect and shot in the air. The suspect did not stop and did not answer their calls to stop and lie on the ground. At this point the security officer saw the suspect move his hand towards an orange object near his chest. The security officer assessed that this was the mechanism to activate the explosive belt. The security officer and the security guard shot at the suspect’s feet. The suspect fell to the ground and attempted to get up. At this point the security guard shot at the suspect in order to neutralize him. The security guards transferred the matter to local authorities and continued to secure the building for Embassy workers, who were closed in an internal room in the building. The local police examined the suspect and came to the conclusion that this was a dummy belt which was filled with pieces of wood.

Foreign Minister Shalom also discussed Iran’s intentions resume its nuclear enrichment program. The Iranian regime is strengthening what Israel has been claiming for a long time, namely that Tehran is striving to obtain nuclear weapons, and it will not be stopped through negotiations. Hence our demand that this matter be brought before the UN Security Council as soon as possible.

Foreign Minister Shalom noted that it has been 40 years since the establishment of relations with Germany, emphasizing that there is great importance to the relationship, both in the past and the future. The Foreign Minister said that we have a moral and historical duty to assure that the Holocaust is remembered in the coming generations, while at the same time building a partnership with the modern Germany which will help us in assuring that the past will never be changed.

Foreign Minister Shalom said that Israeli is continuing to act in European and other capitals in order to increase pressure on Abu Mazen to deal – decisively and immediately – with terrorism.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that despite the difficult and painful past, Germany is adopting a series of pro-Israel steps and policies. Germany is aiding Israel in security relations and also in the matter of missing Israeli soldiers. Germany is leading the battle against anti-Semitism in Europe and is also managing the policy line in the European Union and supports Israel in these forums.

The Cabinet issued the following statement:

“This week, forty years ago, Israel and Germany established diplomatic relations. Establishing bilateral relations was a momentous occasion in the history of the state. These relations were established in the shadow of the Holocaust, the terrible crime against the Jewish people which was perpetrated by the Third Reich. Remembering the Holocaust is an essential part if bilateral relations and it will remain so.  There is no forgive-and-forget regarding the Holocaust.

Relations between Germany and Israel today are a unique combination of the past and the future. For the sake of those who were murdered and for the coming generations – there is a continuous obligation to remember the past and to educate for the future, specifically the youth, who will mold the face of society in the next generations.

Today, the German people and their government, who share democratic and free ideals with us, are one of Israel’s main partners in all endeavors. On a national level, Germany is committed to Israel’s existence and acts in bilateral frameworks and international forums to aid in bolstering Israel’s security and international standing.

Today, the Government of Israel commemorates friendly relations, cooperation and understanding between the two states and the two peoples, and will continue to strengthen and develop them.”

2. The Cabinet discussed immigration to Israel, and the draft Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law.  National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland presented the immigration issue and its effects both on Israeli society and on the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Attorney-General Meni Mazuz presented the draft 2005 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (temporary provision; amendment) 2005.

The Cabinet decided to approve the amended law, i.e. the version that was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Constitutional Affairs on 8 May 2005, and to submit it to the Knesset forthwith.

In addition, the Cabinet decided that it was within its authority, according to article 5 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (temporary provision; see foregoing link) to extend the validity of the law until 31 July 2005.

This law will be submitted to the Knesset only if it becomes clear ahead of the time of the expiration of the current version of the temporary provision, that the Knesset has not completed its discussions on approving the temporary order and the changes that have been decided upon.

The Cabinet instructed Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, in coordination with the Justice Ministry, to immediately advance the bill that deals with the non-certification of persons illegally in Israel and to distribute, within 21 days, the text of the legal memorandum which was prepared on the matter.

In January of this year, the Cabinet decided to amend the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (temporary provision) so as to expand the qualifications in applying the law to populations that present reduced security risks. On 8 May 2005 the Ministerial Committee on Constitutional Affairs approved the wording of the bill. The existing temporary provision will expire on 31 May 2005. In order to submit the bill for its first reading immediately upon the opening of the Knesset summer session, the Cabinet decided, as per the foregoing, to approve the draft decision.

The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (temporary provision) is designed to anchor in primary legislation the Cabinet’s May 2002 decision regarding dealing with persons illegally in Israel and family unification policy vis-a-vis PA residents and foreign nationals of Palestinian origin. The background to the May 2002 Cabinet decision and the subsequent Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (temporary provision) was the security reality in the wake of the outbreak of the violent confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians, which showed the increasing involvement of Palestinians who exploited their status in Israel, which they received due to family unification procedures with Israelis, in terrorist activities in general and in aiding suicide-terrorists in particular.

Israeli identity documents given to Palestinians afford them freedom of movement between the PA and Israel and made them into a preferred population for terrorist organizations in perpetrating terrorist acts, particularly on Israeli territory.

The current professional position of security officials is that there has been no change in the security reality that constituted the basis for the law, i.e. in regard to the terrorist organizations’ intentions and the potential for exploiting this population.

The armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist organizations continues and it is the continuing intention of the latter to perpetrate many and serious terrorist attacks on Israeli territory, as much as possible; attempts to perpetrate such attacks are constant and ongoing.

It has been found that progress in constructing the security fence has converted Palestinians who hold Israeli identity documents into an even more preferred population by the terrorist organizations.

Since the law was legislated, no new requests for family unification in Israel by PA residents have been dealt with, and the professional assessment of security officials is that the temporary provisions constitute an effective tool in both reducing the free passage of PA residents between the PA areas and Israel and in preventing the severe potential risk in this population today.

In light of the foregoing, given the current security reality and the scope of the threats, it has been proposed to extend the validity of the law by an additional year.

However, in light of the need to adapt the law to the fact that its validity has been extended yet again, and given the comments of the High Court of Justice in appeals that have been submitted against the Law, the Cabinet decided in July 2004 that even as the Law was extended, that it would be amended by expanding the qualifications regarding its application.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the Jewish nature of Israel must be preserved and that the issue at hand is the existence of Israel.  The State of Israel is the only one the Jewish people has and it is its right to remain a Jewish and democratic state.

3. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with Basic Law: The Government, to transfer the issue of conversions, which are not Jewish conversions (giyur), from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Justice Ministry , and to both notify the Knesset and publish its decision in the official gazette, according to law.

4. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with Basic Law: The Government, to transfer the Prime Minister’s authority according to Article 12a of the 1971 Religious Services for Jews Law to the Justice Minister and to submit this decision for Knesset approval according to law.

The 1971 Law provides for administrative law jurisdiction over municipal rabbis and authorizes the Religious Affairs Minister to submit complaints against municipal rabbis to administrative tribunals.

On 21 December 2003, the responsibilities of the Religious Affairs Minister on this issue were transferred to the Prime Minister, given the abrogation of the post of Religious Affairs Minister. The Justice Minister is the authorized official who may submit complaints against rabbinical court judges, cadis and civil judges to administrative tribunals.

In the current reality, the aforementioned decision will prevent the fear of a conflict of interest in cases in which the need arises to consider filing a complaint against a municipal rabbi due to actions and statements directed against the Prime Minister.

5. The Cabinet decided to appoint Finance Ministry Budget Division National Infrastructures Coordinator Amir Shavit as Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s representative on the Public Water and Sewage Services Council.

The Cabinet also decided to appoint Interior Ministry Jerusalem District Director Ruth Yosef as Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz’s representative on the Council.

6. The Cabinet approved the draft Reserve Duty Law, as it was presented by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, and to submit it to the Knesset.

On 13 March 2005, the Cabinet approved a new reserve duty model and directed the defense establishment to advance legislation which would anchor the new model in law.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation discussed the draft law on 8 May 2005 and decided to approve it. The draft law is the fruit of prolonged staff work by the IDF and the defense establishment, in cooperation with various ministries and civilian bodies. 

7. The Cabinet noted Prime Minister Sharon’s statement that Minister Tzahi Hanegbi will be responsible for Jerusalem affairs (in place of Natan Sharansky, who recently resigned from the Cabinet). The Cabinet decided to appoint Minister Hanegbi as the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem Affairs.

8. The Cabinet decided to accept Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz’s recommendation to appoint IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski as Acting IDF Chief-of-Staff while IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon attends ceremonies in Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.