(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Monday), 15 August 2005:

1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi, SELA Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Director-General Ilan Cohen briefed ministers on the beginning of the implementation of the Disengagement Plan.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that last night at midnight, the Gaza Strip was closed to entry, thus beginning the first stage of the Disengagement Plan.  Notices regarding the start of the evacuation on Wednesday morning are now being delivered to homes. At several places, there is opposition to the entry of IDF forces and to the distribution of the notices. There  is no intention of confronting the residents. In principle, in communities where there is opposition, IDF forces will not enter to distribute the notices.

The IDF and the Israel Police are prepared according to the plan. In the next 48 hours, all assistance will be provided to evacuees who require it, regarding transportation, packing, etc.

Defense Minister Mofaz made it clear that the evacuation stage will begin Wednesday morning; the decision on which places the IDF and the Israel Police will evacuate first will be made by midnight Tuesday.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that the IDF’s and the Israel Police’s plans have been well prepared; forces have been ordered to take a moderate approach and render as much assistance as possible. He expressed the hope the foregoing would be carried out because we must all remember that this is a very difficult and painful process; however, he added that this is also a test of democracy in the State of Israel. The Defense Minister also expressed the hope that the disengagement would be implemented with minimal harm, psychological and otherwise, both to the settlers and to the security forces in the field.

IDF Chief-of-Staff Halutz briefed ministers on the activities of the security forces in the field and said that while there is opposition at the entrances to communities, it is non-violent and is mainly by young people who are not residents of Gush Katif. He added that there is dialogue with every community and said that for the most part, the residents are cooperative. In northern Samaria, two communities – Ganim and Kadim – have been completely evacuated. Last night there were demonstrations; several demonstrators – mainly from Shavei Shomron – were detained.

IDF Chief-of-Staff Halutz discussed the incident in which soldiers are suspected of having tried to take equipment from one of the evacuated communities.  He made it clear that the IDF is checking the matter; the suspect soldiers have been arrested and will today face a proper judicial process. The message of this event is being passed on to all soldiers.

Israel Police Commissioner Karadi said that police forces are fully deployed along the fifth and sixth rings in the area in order to restrict the movement of those who intend to reach Gush Katif and disrupt the evacuation. The police have also reinforced their deployment throughout the country in order to prevent both terrorist activity and disturbances.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) management of everything regarding the disengagement.  He said that after weeks of foot-dragging, it is possible to see increased efforts to coordinate the main points of the disengagement, and matters relating to the “day after” disengagement. The PA leadership has recently been acting to secure the coordinated and quiet implementation of the disengagement in order to strengthen itself in both the internal and diplomatic spheres.

Internal Palestinian struggles continue over issues relating to the administration of the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Shalom praised the work of quartet emissary James Wolfensohn and his team, who have invested much effort in order to assure the success of the Israeli move and of the Palestinians’ dealing with the challenges of the “day after.” This activity reflects the considerable international support for the Disengagement Plan.

Foreign Minister Shalom commented on his ministry’s preparations for the battle for international awareness regarding the disengagement. He noted that, in this framework, the Foreign Ministry is filling a central role, with its main message being that the disengagement is an Israeli initiative that – despite the pain – has created a new opportunity for peace which must be taken advantage of.

Foreign Minister Shalom updated ministers regarding Iran and the coup d’etat in Mauritania.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thanked the security forces for their difficult work, and expressed his appreciation for everything that is currently occurring on the ground.

Prime Minister Sharon reiterated that that this is a mission which must be implemented in full, and that there are no changes in the timetable, or in the rules that have been determined for implementing this mission.

Prime Minister Sharon appealed to the forces on the ground and asked them to act with as much patience as possible, despite the difficulties, first and foremost with those being evacuated. The Prime Minister instructed that decisions based on implementing the disengagement be carried out in full. “When we see the actions carried out by youths, who did not come of their own accord, rather they were organized and sent by elements which repeat their non-involvement in violent activities – anyone who wants to live in a state where things are managed in such a way can ignore the situation. I do not intend to live in such a fashion, I see it as our responsibility to ensure that that life in Israel is carried on without violence, without coercion and without incitement, but in a manner acceptable in democratic countries.”

The Cabinet approved action by the security forces to implement the evacuation of the third group of communities in Gush Katif.

2. The Cabinet approved Communications Minister Dalia Itzik’s proposal and appointed attorneys Nurit Amitai and Munir Azzam, members of the Second Authority for Television and Radio Council, effective as of 15 August 2005.