(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday (Sunday, 24 July 2005):

1.  Prime Minister Sharon said, “Last night, two Israeli civilians were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.  On behalf of the entire government, I send condolences to the Kol family and wishes for a quick recovery to the wounded.

Israel will not countenance this terrorism.  I emphasized this issue in my meeting with US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice.  I made it clear to her the additional instructions that have been given to the security establishment on this issue are very clear and that the IDF will respond sharply against terrorist activity.  I made it clear to her that our responses will be with very sharp means whether terrorism is perpetrated during the evacuation or afterwards.

I phoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last night and gave him the condolences of the Israeli people over the terrorist attacks that were perpetrated in Sharm e-Sheikh.  I commented that extreme Islamic terrorism has, in recent weeks, once again proved that it has no borders.  There can be no compromise with this terrorism.  We spoke of the need to fight terrorism and the necessity for bilateral – as well as international – cooperation in the war against extremist Islamic terrorism.

I spoke last night with Intel chairman of the board Craig R. Barrett, who informed me that his company has decided to establish another plant in Kiryat Gat at an investment of approximately NIS 4 billion.  The new plant will absorb approximately 2,000 workers directly and another 2,000 indirectly.  Intel’s decision follows intensive contacts between the company and a team headed by Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Ehud Olmert, which included representatives of his ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Finance Ministry.  I see this decision as a declaration of complete confidence in the stability and strength of the Israeli economy.”

2. Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi briefed ministers on the Israel Police’s and the security establishment’s preparations regarding the ‘solidarity march’ by those opposed to the disengagement.  The inspector-general gave details of his contacts with Yesha Council leaders in order to prevent violence and clashes.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked Internal Security Minister Ezra and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Karadi for their actions last week, during the demonstrations in Netivot and Kfar Maimon: "I ask that the police inspector-general, district commanders, and the defense minister pass on to the commanders and the policemen and women and soldiers that they deserve all the praise and appreciation, for their restraint and the way they fulfilled the complicated and difficult tasks placed before them.  Please tell them, that the government and I stand behind them and back them up.  We know that that State of Israel can rely on them."

Prime Minister Sharon added that the behavior of the demonstrators was positive.  The demonstration which continued for three days, three difficult days, was managed responsibly, and he hopes that this is a good sign for the future.  It is important to continue talking, in order that similar leadership is demonstrated in the future.

3. The cabinet discussed the citizenship and entry to Israel bill, which has been submitted to the Knesset and is currently being discussed by the Knesset Interior Committee. 

As the Knesset will begin its summer recess at the end of this week, the government approved Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s recommendation that, should the Knesset not approve the bill, the validity of the current Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law will be extended to the end of November.

4. The cabinet concluded its discussion of Israel’s macroeconomic situation and economic policy targets for the 2006 financial year.

5. The cabinet decided to make it easier for Russian tourists to receive visas. To this end, the cabinet approved the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team as follows:

A. The Internet will be used as a means of submitting applications for tourist visas to Israel:
i) In the first stage, for a trial period of one year, applications for Israeli tourist visas may be submitted via the Web site of the Israeli Embassy in Russia, both by individuals and travel agents;
ii) In the case of refusal, applicants will receive their answer via the Internet;
iii) In cases in which further consideration is needed, applicants will receive interim answers via the Internet, in which he/she will be asked to work with the embassy or the travel agent;
iv) The entire issue will be reexamined after one year in order to expand use of the Internet as a means of issuing visas.

B. A track for submitting tourist visa applications from Russia will be created for the following categories, provided that the applicants were never illegally in Israel and taking special cases into account:

i) Applicants with entry visas to western European countries and the US, who actually visited these countries within the last three years and met their visa conditions, will receive Israeli tourist visas;
ii) Applicants holding Israeli tourist visas, who actually visited Israel in the last two years and met their visa conditions, will receive Israeli tourist visas good for three entries in a two-year period;
iii) Businesspeople who have proven commercial ties to Israel will receive two-year multiple-entry visas.

C. Applicants as per B(i) above will – to the extent possible – receive tourist visas within three working days after all the necessary documents are submitted.

D. To the extent that the conditions either listed above in B(i) or specified in the visa are not met, the applicants will be ineligible for consideration within the categories mentioned above.

The cabinet decided to instruct the inter-ministerial team to continue its work and consider:

A. The definition of additional categories of applicants eligible for multiple-entry visas, and
B. Increasing the number of approved travel agencies and reviewing the activities of travel agencies that have already been approved.

Implementation of the foregoing will begin within three months of receiving the special budget.  Such changes as may be implemented without special budgets will be implemented forthwith.

The cabinet recognizes the importance of tourism to Israel’s economy and the significant latent potential in the Russian tourist market.

6. The cabinet decided to resubmit the 2005 regional councils bill regarding the date of elections for regional councils.  The draft was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and tabled in the Knesset by the interior minister.  It failed in its second and third Knesset readings on 12.7.05.  The cabinet has reapproved the bill so that it might be resubmitted for its first reading before the end of the current Knesset session.

7. The cabinet discussed the issue of increasing independent sources of income for local authorities and decided to amend both the balancing grant allocation process and the interior minister’s authority to appoint special accountants to supervise the finances of those local councils that are ineligible for balancing grants.

8. The cabinet discussed Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s appeal against the decision of the Ministerial Committee on Foreign Workers regarding permits to employ foreign workers.  The cabinet decided to continue its deliberations next week.

9. In continuation of previous decisions, the cabinet decided to add 30 million cubic meters to the water consumption needs for the agricultural sector in 2010.  The cabinet assigned responsibility for overseeing the implementation of this decision to National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Yisrael Katz, and Water Commissioner Shimon Tal.

The supplement will be allocated to farmers and farming cooperatives in the Negev so as to enable them to work their lands throughout the year, this in order to promote the development of the Negev.

10. The cabinet, in accordance with the 1990 Second Television and Radio Authority Law, decided to accept the recommendation of Communications Minister Daliah Itzik and appoint the following people as members of the Second Television and Radio Authority Council: Nurit Davosh (as acting chairwoman), Dr. Revida Abu-Ras, Dr. David Alexander, Eyal Buhbut, Lihiya Gelman, Dr. Baruch Leshem, Noam Semel, Rachel Primor, Rachel Turgeman, and Avi Hefetz.

11. The cabinet discussed the encouragement, development, and marketing of industrial zones in peripheral areas and decided as follows:

A. To set subsidies for developing industrial zones for new markets as follows:
i) In ‘B’ development areas – 10%;
ii) In ‘A’ development areas that are not in confrontation line areas – 40%;
iii) In confrontation line areas – 50%.

B. The Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry’s Development Areas Authority will receive budgetary supplements as follows:

i) 2005 – NIS 25 million;
ii) 2006 – NIS 15 million;
iii) 2007 – NIS 35 million;
iv) 2008 – NIS 5 million.

12. The cabinet discussed the national communications master plan regarding small broadcasting installations and decided that the directors-general of the relevant ministries would continue their discussions on the matter and would submit a proposal on the matter within 30 days.

13. The cabinet decided that deputy ministers would henceforth travel abroad, whether privately or in an official capacity, only with the approval of the prime minister after he has received the written approval of the minister appointed over said deputy minister.