(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 29 May 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “This morning, the Cabinet will hear, for the last time, a briefing by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe (Bugi) Yaalon, who finishes his term of office this week and will be discharged from the IDF.

In his 37 years in the IDF, Bugi has filled a long list of key posts – including (inter alia) Commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, Commander of the Paratroop Brigade, OC Intelligence, OC Central Command, Deputy Chief-of-Staff and, of course, Chief-of-Staff.  I personally thanked the Chief-of-Staff a few days ago; this morning, I want to thank you on behalf of the entire Government for your exemplary service.

Moshe (“Bugi”) Yaalon has led the IDF in the latest confrontation with the Palestinians as Deputy Chief-of-Staff and as Chief-of-Staff and has done so with honor.  In both operational planning and command, he has shown daring, determination and great courage which have led to a decision in the conflict that was forced on us. He led the IDF in the war on terrorism in an uncompromising fashion, in cooperation with the ISA and the other security organizations, and thus saved the lives of many citizens.  For this we owe him our deep gratitude.

I had a special honor in two wars – the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War – to command forces that were mostly composed of reservists. I must say that both then and now, I am filled with appreciation at the capabilities of these forces, their fighting abilities, their readiness, their self-sacrifice. I saw this throughout the wars and I can only offer praise and gratitude for the reserve system that was set up over the years and which has shown extraordinary combat abilities in the IDF’s wars.”

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said: “I would like to thank Lt.-Gen. Yaalon for 37 years of service in the IDF, and anyone who has served in the IDF for so many years can appreciate the great contribution to the State. I saw Lt.-Gen. Yaalon in many positions in the IDF and I believe that the highlight of his career was in fighting terrorism.  He led the IDF along with the ISA and other organizations in the fight against terrorism both as Deputy Chief-of-Staff and as Chief-of-Staff, with great steadfastness and decisiveness, and the results that we see today are mainly due to his ability to lead the IDF in complete cooperation with the ISA and other bodies. I think that the citizens of Israel owe much to Lt.-Gen. Yaalon for his contribution. I would like to take the opportunity, and I believe there will be others, to thank Lt.-Gen. Yaalon for his contribution; thank you Bugi.

Chief-of-Staff Yaalon briefed ministers on current security matters and summarized developments in the region and in the IDF over the past three years.

2. The Cabinet noted that today is Reserves Appreciation Day.  Prime Minister Sharon said: “This is a welcome initiative that allows the State of Israel to thank its reserve soldiers. As one who has held various commands over many IDF actions, I recognize and appreciate the reservists who have constituted, and who continue to constitute, the vanguard of the IDF.”

Defense Minister Mofaz said: "Today the State of Israel marks the second Reserves Appreciation Day. This is a day to salute reserve soldiers and their families for the personal and family efforts required by reserve duty.The reserves are very important to both the security and strength of the State of Israel.  Society became aware of the difficulty of reserve duty and the harsh dilemmas facing reservists some years ago.  I am pleased to see a change in the IDF’s attitude toward reserve duty, for example with the declaration of Reserves Appreciation Day as national day. Furthermore, there has been a change in attitude toward reservists during actual reserve duty itself, in equipment and training, conditions of service, etc. In two days, the Reserve Duty Law will be tabled in the Knesset; this law includes a new model for reserve duty, as well as various regulations and directives regarding various reserve duty issues. I hope that this law will constitute a treaty of values between Israeli society, the authorities, the IDF and reservists. Reservists are the few who do much for the security of the State. On behalf of the security establishment and the IDF, I would like to thank the reservists and their families on this day – thank you.”

3. The Cabinet decided to release 400 Palestinian prisoners, in accordance with the criteria set out in earlier decisions, including the criteria that prisoners must have served at least two-thirds of their sentences in order to be released.

A committee headed by Justice Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitz will coordinate the release.

Prime Minister Sharon said: “As part of Israel’s efforts to assist Abu Mazen and the moderate forces in the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel agreed in February to release 900 Palestinian prisoners without blood on their hands. This move, like others, was discussed and approved in the ministerial forum which approved the understandings that were reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit.

Five hundred prisoners have already been released in accordance with the government’s decision; today, the Cabinet will be asked to approve the release of 400 additional prisoners.  All of them, as was stated above, are without blood on their hands.

Israel has claims regarding the Palestinians, including very serious claims regarding the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings; however, those who believe that the events of the coming months are liable to strengthen the forces of extremist terrorism certainly understand the need to strengthen the principal moderate element in the PA and honor our commitments.

I want to thank Ministers Livni, Ezra, Ben-Eliezer and Naveh, Justice Ministry Director-General Abramovitz and the security establishment representatives for their substantial work.”

4. The Cabinet decided in accordance with article 18 of Basic Law: The President that President Moshe Katsav will leave for a state visit to Germany on a reciprocal visit following an invitation by German President Horst Kohler to mark forty years since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries.

5. The Cabinet approved the following appointments:
Aryeh Arazi – Ambassador to the Czech Republic;
Ilan Baruch – Ambassador to South Africa and non-resident ambassador to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland;
Yael Rubinstein – Ambassador to Thailand and non-resident ambassador to Cambodia;
Dan Ben-Eliezer – Consul-General in Hong Kong and non-resident Consul-General in Macao.

6. Prime Minister Sharon said, regarding the implementation of the Dovrat Commission report and the attacks on Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat:

“This morning Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat will brief the Cabinet on the implementation of the Dovrat Commission report.

I would like to point out that the education reforms specified in the recommendations of the Dovrat Commission report are very important and vital.  The national task force that I appointed along with Minister Livnat sat for over a year and submitted very serious proposals. This is not anybody’s private initiative.  It is the decision of the Government and all those who sit here around the table – except one – voted in favor of it. The Government has also budgeted billions of shekels for education in order to implement the reforms.

Minister Livnat is leading the implementation of the Dovrat report on behalf of the entire Government and she needs to receive its support. Minister Livnat has led the education system to many achievements during her term of office and the unbridled personal attacks on her are an attack on the Government and its decisions. I expect everyone to support the decision that we made.

To my regret, the teachers’ organizations are not cooperating in implementing the report even though several very serious compromise proposals have been made that would allow the implementation of the reforms to begin this coming [academic] year and which would either reduce or obviate the need to dismiss teachers.

I want to make it clear that the Government’s decision on the education reforms will be implemented.  This reform will happen. I call on the teachers’ organizations to accept the serious proposals that have been made to them and to open discussions on the immediate implementation of the Dovrat report.

The reforms contain many issues the implementation of which must be discussed and it is possible to do so by agreement and through respectful dialogue. I am always in favor of dialogue but in the absence of cooperation, the Government will implement the Dovrat report along with the local authorities, according to the plan that has already been approved.

It is the Government which is responsible towards the students and the parents to enact the necessary changes in the education system and this we will do. Limor, I stand together with you in the important measures that you are leading.”

7. The Cabinet decided to approve the draft 2005 State Guarantees Law and table it in the Knesset.

8. The Cabinet discussed the issue of the children, parents and siblings of persons illegally present in Israel and decided that this matter will be dealt with in a draft law on the issue of persons illegally present in Israel.