(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly cabinet meeting today (Sunday, 26 June 2005):

1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed the cabinet on matters relating to the Palestinian Authority including:

a) The strengthening of Hamas.
b) The lack of a commitment from Islamic Jihad to calm and to the perpetration of attacks.
c) Israel’s actions against Islamic Jihad.
d) The inaction by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the wide-scale detentions of 60 prisoners, carried out by Israeli security services, the thwarting of high-trajectory rocket fire, and the destruction of approximately four launchers.

The defense minister also discussed the coordination of the disengagement with the Palestinians.

2. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on diplomatic matters and welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark’s announcement today on the thaw in diplomatic relations with Israel, which were frozen in 2004. The foreign minister commented that Israel made every attempt to conclude the crisis with New Zealand, and took the opportunity to thank those involved. Israel is committed to these relations and we feel that there is a similar commitment from the New Zealand side.  Israel and New Zealand have enjoyed diplomatic relations for many years. Now that the crisis is behind us, the foreign minister has instructed his ministry to act immediately to deepen the relationship.

Foreign Minister Shalom commented on the Iranian elections, maintaining that the election of Ahmadinejad proves that Iran is not interested in reform, conciliation and progress; rather, it is interested in conservatism and extremism. Ahmadinejad has already announced that he plans to adopt the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution. The new regime – which is more extreme that its predecessor – will increase efforts to develop its nuclear program, with one purpose in mind: to obtain nuclear weapons alongside the launching ability it already has.

The foreign minister said that it is more probable now than ever before that the Iranian government will arm the terrorist organizations with nuclear weapons and will thereby distribute the nuclear threat all over the world. The connection between terrorism and nuclear weapons is a global existential threat. The international community must form a unified and decisive policy towards Iran, which will assure that the enlightened western nations will not become hostages of an extremist Iran. The time has come for the UN Security Council to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat.

3. The cabinet approved the principles of an agreement regarding the establishment of communities in the Nitzanim area. The cabinet agreed that it would adopt the version of the principles approved by the Ministerial Committee on the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan on 22 June 2005 regarding assistance to settlers and alternative residences, which had been appealed by Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz and Environment Minister Shalom Simhon. The agreement follows a request by a group in the community, in accordance with paragraph 85 of the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, which states that:

The Nitzanim area will include community of Nitzan, in accordance with the plan, as well as an area in northern Ashkelon in accordance with the scenario included in the agreement.  Establishing new communities will be in accordance with the number of people participating in the agreement, their character and qualities. If fewer than 5,000 people join the agreement, the communities will be part of the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council. If more than 5,000 join, a new regional council will be established.

Those entitled to join the agreement are those who are entitled to compensation for their homes according to paragraphs 35-38 of the law.

The rights of individual groups according to the agreement are conditional on the fact that the person signing the agreement, and his family members who live with him, will uphold the conditions detailed in paragraph 44(a)(2) of the law.

Public institutions and educational structures will be established by the responsible government offices. The budgets will be independent of the ministerial budgets.

The communities will be allotted open plots of land, according to the amount each person is entitled to and will not be less than the following amounts: Type a (320m) NIS 157,000, Type b (500m) NIS 225,000, Type c (for privately owned land – 1,000m) NIS 360,000.

Implementation of the agreement is dependent on at least 200 families joining.

People are entitled to submit a request to join the agreement no later than 20 July 2005. The cabinet may extend the deadline.

4. The cabinet discussed the principles of a law regarding persons illegally present in Israel and decided that Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz would – within seven days – distribute a memorandum on such a law that would incorporate the following points:

a) The interior minister will not issue Israeli residence visas or permits to those who are liable to endanger the security of the state and/or the people, to those who are liable to harm another vital public interest, and to those who either entered or stayed in Israel illegally, unless the illegal presence was based either on an innocent error or fault or on circumstances beyond the person’s control;

b) After a period of time that will be determined from the day that the applicant for a visa or permit leaves Israel after having been present here illegally, the interior minister will be entitled to grant a visa or permit as per the above, taking into account the period in which the applicant was present in Israel illegally, provided that the applicant was not illegally present in Israel for more than one year;

c) For a person who was illegally present in Israel, even for a period longer than one year, regarding whom there are special humanitarian circumstances, the interior minister will be entitled to grant a visa or permit as per the above, provided that three years have passed since the applicant left Israel;

d) The foregoing instructions will also apply to those whose request for a visa or permit is based on Article 7 of the 1952 Citizenship Law;

e) The law will determine special provisions that – in special circumstances – will enable the issuing of a permit to work in Israel to someone who was illegally present in Israel, who entered as a foreign worker, and regarding whom four years have yet to pass since he/she first entered Israel;

f) Those who were refused residency visas and permits according to Article 2a(iii) or 2a(iv) of the 1952 Citizenship Law, will not be eligible to file a new request for such a visa or permit until a period of time to be determined by the interior minister shall have passed, unless there has been a substantial change in the circumstances which led to the aforementioned refusal;

g) The law will include appropriate instructions so as to enable the implementation of the temporary arrangement regarding the status of children, parents and siblings of persons illegally present in Israel, according to the conditions that have been approved by the cabinet.

The cabinet authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve the bill forthwith and table it in the Knesset.

The foregoing principles are a general outline of the law, which is designed to prevent providing incentives for persons to be illegally present in Israel; when the law comes into force persons illegally present in Israel will be unable to legalize their presence except in those exceptional circumstances specified in the law.  This rule will apply even if someone illegally present in Israel has married an Israeli citizen.

Arrangements will be determined that will enable the “laundering” of foreign workers in Israel who initially entered Israel as foreign workers and who, in special circumstances that will be determined, became persons illegally present in Israel, in order to maintain the “closed skies” policy which prevents the entry of new foreign workers from abroad.

5. The cabinet approved a temporary arrangement to provide status for the children, parents and siblings of persons illegally present in Israel.  The cabinet determined that:

a) The interior minister will be entitled to issue permanent residency permits to the children of persons illegally present in Israel, who were born in Israel and who have assimilated into Israeli society and culture, at their request, and provided that all of the following conditions apply:

i) The child was born in Israel, has lived in it continuously and was in Israel on the day this decision was made.  A short visit abroad will not be considered a break in the aforementioned continuity;
ii) The child will be at least 10 years of age by 31 December 2005;
iii) The parents of the child entered Israel legally with a visa and permit according to the 1952 Entry into Israel Law prior to his date of birth;
iv) The child either studies at a school in Israel or has finished his studies, speaks Hebrew, and removing him from Israel would be akin to “cultural exile” to a country with which he has no cultural ties.

b) The interior minister will be entitled to grant a temporary residence permit to the child’s parents and siblings, provided that they have lived with him in a common household in Israel since his date of birth, and were in Israel on the day this decision was made. A short visit abroad will not be considered a break in the aforementioned continuity.  In the absence of other circumstances, the aforementioned family members will have their temporary visas extended annually until the child turns 21. At this time, they will be able to apply for a permanent residency visa as long as long as their status was not provided for in the framework of the 30 April 2004 decision of the Ministerial Committee on Proposals Regarding the [Interior Ministry] Population Registry regarding giving status to the parents of an IDF soldier. Giving status to the child and the members of his family as per the foregoing cannot serve as the basis for the eligibility of additional family members, at any time, to receive either Israeli citizenship or a residency permit according to the 1952 Entry into Israel Law.

c) This decision is a temporary, one-time arrangement.  Thus, requests for status by those who meet the terms of the decision on the date it was made will be submitted to the Population Authority no later than 31 December 2005. No applications will be accepted after that date. The foregoing arrangement will not apply to those regarding whom there are security or criminal grounds for not receiving status in Israel. Foreign nationals and their families who do not meet the conditions of this arrangement will be removed from Israel. This arrangement will be published 14 days from when this decision will be made in two daily newspapers, including one in English, and at all Population Authority offices. The publication will specify the documents and other materials that applicants will have to submit to the Interior Ministry to support their applications.

The objective of the foregoing is to offer a one-time arrangement for the problem of the children of those present illegally in Israel, who – through no fault of their own – were born and raised in Israel as a consequence of their parents’ prolonged illegal presence in Israel and for whom removal from Israel would be akin to “cultural exile” to a country with which they have no cultural ties.

This decision will apply only to those children whose parents legally entered Israel as either tourists or foreign workers, or with any other visa according to the 1952 Entry into Israel Law, and who remained illegally after the expiry of their permit.

This decision also provides a solution for the child’s parents and siblings, who are illegally present in Israel, so that the child may grow up in a regular family unit.

In addition to providing an arrangement for those who meet the terms of the bill, efforts will be made to remove from Israel those who do not and to see to it that a similar phenomenon is not created in the future.