(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 7 August 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following remarks at the start of the meeting:

“Last Thursday, 4 August 2005, in Shfaram, a very serious event took place in which four city residents were murdered and others were wounded by an Israeli who perpetrated an act of terrorism in order to both harm relations between the populations and prevent the Disengagement Plan. I see this serious thing as an awful act. Both on my behalf and that of the Government, I would like to convey condolences to the families of the victims. On Friday, 5 August 2005, I announced that we will treat the families that were struck as families of terrorist victims, with all that entails. Last Thursday, I spoke with Shfaram Mayor Ersan Yassin and Arab community leaders and with all the Arab MKs, and I think that it is very important, both in general and during the difficult days that we are facing, to make every effort to enhance relations between Jews and Arabs, and this is how I intend to act. Everything must be done so that such events do not recur.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that there is awful incitement and a concomitant danger that such events will recur; therefore, I appeal to all those involved in the investigation – the Israel Police, the ISA and the security establishment – to do whatever is necessary to hasten the investigation and to take all necessary steps so that such events do not recur. We must continue to live with the Arab population here as always and we must create a network of relations that will enable us to live together. We must make an effort, each in his own field, to maintain quiet so that we will get through the difficult days ahead as well as through those after them, in a spirit of cooperation between the various sectors of the population. We will hear the results after the inquiries are made and we will decide together what will be our next steps.

The next issue that we will deal with today is the Disengagement Plan and the decision on starting the implementation. We will be briefed on the situation on the ground and whether or not there have been any changes. We will decide on the implementation of the evacuation that will begin – according to the Government’s decision – on 15 August 2005 and which will be carried out in full. This is a very difficult and complicated move but it is very important for Israel and will be carried out in accordance with the timetable that has been decided upon by the Government and the Knesset.”

2. The Cabinet was briefed by security establishment and Disengagement Authority officials on the evacuation of communities and areas as per the Disengagement Plan. Prime Minister Sharon said that: “On 6 June 2004, the Cabinet approved the Disengagement Plan, at the center of which is the withdrawal from all four groups of communities included in the Plan. The Cabinet decided that it would reconvene shortly before the evacuation, consider the then existing circumstances and decide whether or not they are of sufficient weight to affect the evacuation.

In accordance with the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and I will sign an order determining 15 August 2005 as the evacuation day.

We are approximately one week before evacuation day and it is now time to consider the circumstances in order to decide if they are of sufficient weight to affect the evacuation. I know that the security forces – the IDF and the Israel Police – are thoroughly prepared for the evacuation regarding both the possibility of an upsurge in Palestinian terrorism and the evacuation itself.  The Disengagement Authority and the various Government ministries have made thorough preparations regarding the civilian aspects of the evacuation; there is a solution for every resident. The civilian and security establishments are ready for the evacuation and this will be part of our decision today.

Another part of our decision today will be to approve action by the security forces to implement the evacuation of the first group of communities – Morag, Netzarim and Kfar Darom. Evacuating the residents will be hard for all of us, but especially for the residents. For the residents themselves this is a very painful process and I understand their hearts and their pain. However, and despite all the hardship, the Disengagement Plan will allow us to preserve our vital national and security interests it creates an opportunity to get the regional diplomatic process moving and it is very important for the future of the State of Israel.”

GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze’evi (Farkash) and ISA Director Yuval Diskin briefed ministers on intelligence matters regarding Israel’s disengagement moves and their influence on the region, the Palestinians and Israeli citizens. Defense Minister Mofaz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, GOC Operations Maj.-Gen. Yisrael Ziv and Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi briefed ministers on the plan for implementing the evacuation of the communities in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.  Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi briefed ministers on civilian preparations ahead of the evacuation of the residents.

The Cabinet thereupon decided as follows:

“In continuation of Cabinet decision #3281 of 20 February 2005, it is decided that:

a. The Cabinet was briefed on security matters and matters regarding operational and civilian readiness ahead of the evacuation in the framework of the disengagement; considered the current overall circumstances; and decides that these circumstances are insufficient to affect the evacuation of the communities and areas in accordance with the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Order (Northern Samaria) and the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Order (Gaza Strip).

b. In continuation of the foregoing, to approve action by the security forces to implement the evacuation of the first group of communities (Morag, Netzarim and Kfar Darom).”

3. Toward the end of the meeting, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his resignation from the Government and presented his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Sharon.