At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 10 July 2005:
1. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefed ministers on his recent trip to Egypt and Jordan. He said that the goal of his visit to Cairo was to sign a memorandum of understanding on the supply of natural gas from Egypt to Israel and added that the memorandum is the diplomatic framework agreement that provides the base for the trade agreement that is due to be signed between the Electric Corporation and the EMG company.
Minister Ben-Eliezer met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Both men underscored the importance of the aforesaid agreement to both countries and to the further enhancement of bilateral relations. They also discussed the Disengagement Plan and the state of affairs in the Palestinian Authority (PA). Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Mahmoud Mohamed Nazif attended the signing ceremony for the memorandum of understanding in order to stress its importance.
Minister Ben-Eliezer said that his visit to Jordan was to discuss the project for laying a pipeline – most of which will be in Jordanian territory – from the Gulf of Eilat to the Dead Sea that would direct approximately 2 million cubic meters of water annually to the Dead Sea in order to replenish the Dead Sea and to exploit the hydroelectric power that could thereby be generated in order to desalinate approximately 850 million cubic meters of water per annum. The minister emphasized that the Jordanians, especially King Abdullah II, ascribe great importance to the project and are prepared to promote it even under difficult political conditions.
2. The relevant bodies are currently preparing to complete the security fence in the "Jerusalem envelope" as per the route and format that have been approved by the Government.
In order to enable the closure of the fence, various bodies (including government ministries, the Municipality of Jerusalem, the Israel Police, the IDF and the other security services), each in its own field, will have to make preparations in order to assure that the daily routines of the residents of the capital, in its various sectors, be infringed on as little as possible.
These preparations also relate to the 13 appeals against various sections of the security fence that are currently before the High Court of Justice, and which regard both the legality of the fence and claims related to harm inflicted on local residents’ "fabric of life" and freedom of movement.
In this regard, the following applies to the "fabric of life" of the Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem: Those for whom the focus of their lives in various areas is outside the city; those who live beyond the municipal boundaries out of choice but who maintain links to the city; eastern Jerusalem Arabs who will be left beyond the fence but who are eligible for full services as residents; and those residents of the PA areas who will be left inside the fence or who live in the Jerusalem district and must receive services in the city for various reasons.
In order to advance the ability to close the fence as soon as possible while providing a maximal response to "fabric of life" needs and in keeping with High Court of Justice decisions, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert to chair an inter-ministerial directors-general committee that would prepare for this situation, monitor Jerusalem residents’ "fabric of life" issues vis-à-vis the "Jerusalem envelope" and to provide responses to such problems as may be created by the "Jerusalem envelope."
The committee discussed the significance of the various issues related to maintaining the "fabric of life" and the necessary preparations of each ministry and body in order to assure both that the number of those entering through the crossings will be small and the level of services for those residents who will be left beyond the fence.
The Cabinet discussed the foregoing and was briefed, inter alia, by National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland, Attorney-General Meni Mazuz and the Director-General of the Jerusalem Municipality, as well as representatives from the Education, Culture and Sports; Health, Tourism, Transportation and Interior ministries, the Employment Service, the postal Authority, the Israel Police and IDF Central Command on the issues relevant to their particular offices and functions.
Prime Minister Sharon thanked each ministry and especially Minister Olmert, for the dedicated and important work that they carried out regarding the "Jerusalem envelope" and in providing responses regarding "fabric of life" issues. The prime minister also noted the urgency in finishing work related to the "Jerusalem envelope."
The Cabinet decided as follows:
The Government of Israel ascribes great importance to the immediate completion of the security fence in the Jerusalem area in order to improve the level of personal security for the residents of Israel in general, and the residents of the "Jerusalem envelope" in particular; dealing with the population of the "Jerusalem envelope" area as a result of the construction of the security fence will be as detailed below:
Government ministries will complete their preparations to provide services as detailed below by 1 September 2005, in the framework of their approved budgets.
A. The Municipality of Jerusalem
- Establishing a "Jerusalem Envelope Community Authority" to deal with residents of those neighborhoods that are within the municipal boundaries but outside the fence;
- Establishing areas for vendors near the crossing points;
Using municipal inspectors to enforce public order around the crossing points;
- Establishing municipal service centers near the crossing points in the context of government services.
B. The Defense Ministry in coordination with the Public Security Ministry
- Provide for, in cooperation with the Transportation Ministry, simultaneous, two-way pedestrian and vehicular traffic by residents, as well as by authorized public transportation;
- Define transportation access routes for residents in the event of various scenarios (terrorist attacks, traffic accidents, etc.) at the crossing points;
- Establish infrastructure that will allow government ministries to provide services at the crossing points.
C. The Municipality of Jerusalem in cooperation with the Education, Culture and Sports Ministry
Outside the "envelope":
- Organize orderly and supervised transportation for students to schools inside Jerusalem ahead of the next academic year;
- Rent classrooms that meet security demands and equip them to absorb additional students ahead of the next academic year;
- Construct educational institutions in order to reduce rental and transportation expenditures – in the long term.
Inside the "envelope":
- Rent classrooms according to need ahead of the next academic year;
- Operate second shifts at schools in wake of a lack in structures for rent, ahead of the next academic year;
- Construct new educational structures in order to cancel the second shifts – in the long term.
D. The Health Ministry
- In coordination with relevant bodies – setting transit procedures which will allow rapid and humanitarian service for those in need;
- In coordination with relevant bodies – setting transit procedures which will ease outward passage for doctors and equipment from inside the "envelope";
- Encourage hospitals in eastern Jerusalem to open branches beyond the fence;
- Encourage health maintenance organizations to expand their activities beyond the fence;
- In coordination with relevant bodies – issue orderly permits for medical crews so as to facilitate rapid crossing.
E. Communications Ministry – Postal Authority
- Establishing postal units close to crossing points;
- Offer governmental services at post offices as is done today, and expand this service under the framework of the law, and in keeping with the negotiations between the Postal Authority and other bodies;
- Establishing central mail distribution points.
F. Social Affairs Ministry – National Insurance Institute
- Integrate NII activities at crossing points via computerized and personal response;
- Provide services via the internet;
- Provide services via the telephone;
- Provide services via the Postal Authority.
G. Transportation Ministry
- Priority at crossing points will be given to authorized public transportation via establishment of special bus lanes;
- Establish bus lanes next to lanes for private cars;
- Build bus stops;
- Establish service points for the Vehicle Licensing Bureau;
- Provide services via the Postal Authority.
H. Interior Ministry
- Services which do not require an identity card will be provided via the Postal Authority;
- Interior Ministry branches to be set up near crossing points for services where an identity card must be shown.
I. Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry – Employment Service
- Determining frequency of appearance for those who reside beyond the barrier to be once a month;
- Establish reception hours at branches to be opened at crossing points.
The Cabinet also decided to add NIS 17 million to the Public Security Ministry’s budget; and a one-time payment of NIS 8million, including NIS 3 million for education needs, to the Jerusalem Municipality’s budget so that they may carry out their activities as detailed above. The budget to complement preparations and to provide public services from 2006 onwards, will be set in talks between the Finance Ministry and the Public Security, Education, and Interior ministries and the Jerusalem Municipality, as part of the talks on the 2006 budget while noting that the Municipality must immediately commit itself to renting buildings and contacting bus companies in the long term. The discussions between the Finance Ministry and the Education Ministry, with the participation of the Jerusalem Municipality will be concluded by the end of July this year.
The Cabinet instructed that staff work for the "Jerusalem envelope" be concluded in the areas of tourism and passage of VIPs, including religious leaders, vis-a-vis the performance of religious ceremonies.
The Cabinet authorized Minister Olmert to monitor implementation of the foregoing. Security sources will "close" the fence only after Minister Olmert recommends that "fabric of life" needs have been met as per the above.