(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 5 June 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon welcomed the chairmen of the Mateh Asher, Gezer, Ramat Hanegev and the Nahal Sorek Regional Councils, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky and the children from the rural communities who brought gifts of produce from the rural communities, all of whom came to celebrate Jerusalem Day. The Prime Minister said that this custom is now five years old, adding that for five years he has been welcoming regional council chairmen and rural community children. The Prime Minister thanked them for coming and for spending Jerusalem Day in the Jewish people’s 3,000-year-old capital, the united, indivisible and eternal capital of the State of Israel.

Jerusalem Mayor Lupoliansky and the regional council chairmen thanked Prime Minister Sharon and the Cabinet and noted the great contribution Israel’s rural communities made in establishing the State of Israel.

Regarding rural communities, Prime Minister Sharon said that without them, “We would not have succeeded in reaching independence; the rural communities were built on agriculture. Today, the rural communities deal with other issues as well and these must be expanded. However, agriculture in the rural communities has been central to the achievements of the State of Israel, in its establishment and in building up its strength.”

2. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, Israel Police commissioner Moshe Karadi, Prisons Service Commissioner Yaakov Ganot, Deputy Social Welfare Minister Avraham Ravitz, Attorney-General Meni Mazuz, State Prosecutor Eran Shendar, Education Minister Limor Livnat and other senior Government officials, briefed ministers on the issue of violence in Israeli society and its causes, and detailed the struggle the relevant bodies are waging against it. They commented on the difficulties involved in the struggle as a result of budgetary, personnel and technological shortfalls. They also referred to their respective ministries’ and organizations’ plans to wage a determined and uncompromising struggle against violence.  Following the discussion, the Cabinet unanimously approved Prime Minister Sharon’s following remarks:

“The phenomenon of violence in Israeli society is increasing.  It requires focused care – with determination and zero tolerance by all bodies that are involved in the struggle against violence. This requires that all those who head such bodies dedicate the maximum amount of time at his disposal to the struggle.

The issue requires comprehensive work, directed by one person who will monitor – on a weekly basis – the plans of all bodies involved in the struggle against violence. Minister Ezra, who this week assumed the post of Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Struggle Against Violence, will convene the Committee immediately, and on a weekly basis, in order to monitor the implementation of the plans presented here by Attorney-General Mazuz and which have been prepared previously, such as the national plan for the struggle against violence. The Committee will consider Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz and Tourism Minister Avraham X to step up community policing. Minister Ezra has all the authority to deal with this issue – and he will see this as a ‘flagship project’; he will update me once a week.

The struggle against violence requires the allocation of special resources; we cannot stand idly by when we witness the upsurge in crime and violence. The struggle against road accidents, which strikes us on a daily basis, also requires special treatment and resources, and Transportation Minister Meir Shetrit will soon brief the Government on the special committee of experts’ work in this regard.

The Israel Police has many missions in the field of law enforcement that require increased resources and personnel. It will not be possible at this time to reduce the number of policemen. I have ordered a freeze in personnel cuts during the disengagement period but in light of the police’s many missions, it is impossible to continue with these cuts and I propose, first of all, that we decide that there will be no cuts and that we consider the possibility of an increase, including in the concomitant budgets. These remarks also apply to the Justice and Social Welfare Ministries.

Dealing with violence is a chain that must begin with education, continues to policing, the State Prosecutor’s Office, social workers, judges and prisons.

Regarding police personnel, beyond the decision not to continue with the cut in officers, the National Security Council, in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israel Police and the IDF, will – within 45 days – consider both quantity and quality of the personnel that the military will transfer to the police, given the latter’s missions.

A team chaired by National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland and including the Directors-General of the Public Security, Justice and Social Welfare Ministries, and a representative from the Finance Ministry Budget Division, will – within 21 days – submit for Cabinet approval a plan for the immediate increase in the resources directed to the struggle against violence.”  Prime Minister Sharon instructed the team to find solutions to the following issues:
a) Israel Police vehicular and technological needs;
b) Prisons Service requirements vis-a-vis increased prison space in light of the expected High Court of Justice decision;
c) The efforts of the State Prosecutor’s Office in clearing the 7,500 case backlog referred to by Attorney-General Mazuz;
d) The needs of the Social Welfare Ministry as per the remarks of its Director-General.

Prime Minister Sharon also gave instructions regarding the needs of the Israel Police in dealing with drug- and alcohol-related problems.  He directed that problems associated with intoxicating beverages be dealt with by the War on Drugs Authority. He instructed the police to enlist new recruits from among the new immigrant communities and stressed the importance of maintaining a continuous dialogue with Israel’s varied communities. He also instructed that the issue of reserve duty in the police be examined.

3. The Cabinet decided to adopt the National Planning and Construction Council’s 16 April 2004 decision which determines, inter alia, that: The fishery cages in the Gulf of Eilat will cease gradually operations within 36 months by reducing the amount of food given to the fish by 33% per annum and by reducing the number of cages accordingly. The Directors-General of the Environment and Agriculture Ministries will determine a mechanism by which their ministries will supervise the foregoing.

An interministerial team chaired by the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry Director-General, and including the Directors-General of the Interior, National Infrastructures, Agriculture and Environment Ministries, as well as senior officials from the Finance Ministry Budget Division and the Israel Lands Authority will consider how to coordinate existing Government aid programs so as to enable the establishment of new enterprises to provide alternative employment for those who will be adversely affected by the closure of the fishery cages.

4. The Cabinet discussed a multi-year taxation plan regarding, inter alia, tax credits for formerly unemployed persons, mothers returning to the work cycle and reducing and/or adjusting National Insurance and health payments and income support for the elderly, and decided as follows:

a) To approve the report of the relevant committee and to authorize the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to prepare the necessary legislative amendments and submit them to the Knesset, upon the approval of Attorney-General Mazuz.
The committee recommendations include a gradual reduction in tax rates that apply to individual and company income and changes in capital market taxation, while setting a uniform tax rate on all capital-derived income. The committee report also includes – inter alia – recommendations on encouraging investment in Israeli markets.

b) The Cabinet decided that a worker will be eligible for six income tax credit points a month for a six-month period, beginning with his/her seventh month of work, provided that all of the following conditions are met: He returned to work between 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006; he worked for 12 out of the 18 months prior to his period of unemployment; he worked at his new job for at least six straight months; and he continued to work throughout his eligibility period.  Independently employed persons will be eligible for the same benefits, with the necessary changes. The final operative criteria will be decided by the Finance Ministry and the National Insurance Institute.
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will prepare a detailed plan on negative taxation for low-income households as part of the 2006 budget discussions.

c) To increase budgeting for daycare in the next three academic years, as well as for the provision of services for the children of working mothers and single working parents.

5. The Cabinet approved Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s proposed appointments to the committee that decides regarding funds left to the State in wills.

6. The Cabinet discussed the issues of adding positions to the National Religious Services Authority in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the salary of the Authority Director. The Cabinet decided the Authority would have its own accounts and legal departments and that the Authority Director would receive the salary of a ministry director-general.