(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 21 August 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following remarks:

“Today, the Cabinet will discuss the continued implementation of the Disengagement Plan. We have not yet finished this process but I want to commend the activities of the security forces, the army and the police, the policemen and women and all the soldiers who have not faltered in this very difficult mission. I want to commend their conduct, which has aroused respect, despite all the difficulties that have confronted them during these difficult days.

I want to praise their restraint and sensitivity. I ask IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi to convey our deep appreciation for the implementation, for their conduct, for the sensitivity and for the exceptional ability. Congratulations to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Public Security Ministry Gideon Ezra for the scrupulous planning.

I want to praise the conduct of the residents who were in a very difficult and painful situation during the evacuation. I want to note that most of the residents – despite their pain and distress – behaved respectably and I also appreciate this very much.

Of course, there has been the very serious phenomenon of the infiltrators. Some of their actions could be defined as acts of hooliganism that bordered on the criminal. This reflects not only on them but on those who dispatched them, incited them and handled them. This was not done in secret but in the open and it seems to me that we have not yet reached the end of this matter. I have spoken with the commanders and on this issue all necessary measures must be taken so that such phenomena do not recur.

This entire operation is difficult and painful but I want to tell you that we have neither seen, nor do we see, implementation of the evacuation as the end of the matter. We will make a great effort to resettle each evacuee. I have already instructed that the committee that has been dealing with the disengagement hold orderly and urgent discussions, involving everyone who deals with this issue, on resettling the evacuees.

There is a plan to resettle all evacuees, whether individually – and there is a place for everybody – or in communities, whether in existing communities or in new agricultural communities. The existing plans have been worked on for some time and may be implemented within a short time. We will spare no effort in carrying out these matters as quickly as possible. Of course, in order for this to be possible, there has to be contact.  Nothing can be resolved except through dialogue.

I see the calls by those who have caused the settlers much suffering, i.e. the Yesha Council, which is now calling on them to go to tent encampments. There is no reason to go to tent encampments. We have the possibility, according to plans which have been prepared for some time, to resettle all of them in a manner in which they wish to live. I also call on the evacuees, who are now in very harsh distress, not to listen to incitement, not to pay attention to plans for establishing tent encampments, which is a political act, and there are those who are prepared to cause people to suffer in order to carry out their political plans. I state, we are make major efforts to resettle people as they wish. There is a place for everyone. There is no possibility in which people will need to stay outside.

Despite the difficulty involved in such a complex operation, 800 families have found arrangements, albeit temporary, and only for a short while until arrangements are found for them whereby they may begin to live in places close to their places of permanent residence. Even today there are contacts with the settlers but there must be dialogue for people to be resettled in accordance with their preferences.

We have not yet completed these difficult days but we have solutions for everyone according to their wishes and I am certain that we will do this as well.”

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevy (Farkash), ISA Director Yuval Diskin, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi briefed ministers on the evacuation.

Defense Minister Mofaz praised the IDF and the Israel Police for their steadfastness, sensitivity and professionalism in evacuating settlers and infiltrators. He said that as of now 16 Gush Katif communities have been evacuated, including approximately 1,330 families, constituting 87% of the total; approximately 200 families have yet to be evacuated. He added that approximately 550 containers had been brought in for evacuating household contents, approximately 250 of which have so far left. The Defense Minister said that the evacuation of six more communities was planned for this week as per the Government’s decision, as well as the four communities in northern Samaria, following Government approval. He emphasized that the security forces’ activity was operationally impressive (vis-a-vis the plans) and even were ahead of schedule. The objective is to finish evacuating residents this week, including the evacuations in northern Samaria. He praised the security forces that have contributed to the operation thus far for their seriousness, determination and humanity. However, he stressed that mission was not yet finished. The Defense Minister said that he has instructed the IDF to increase its security deployment in the Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the murder in Shilo and the firing of Katyushas in Aqaba and Eilat.

Public Security Minister Ezra said, “The security forces – the IDF and the Israel Police – have been faced with one of the hardest missions in their history: evacuating Jewish settlers from their homes and their land.  The officers, commanders and soldiers are acting on a valid Knesset decision, with the continuation of the existence of the rule of law in Israel hanging in the balance. But, each and every soldier and policeman knows and understands that the evacuation is a tragedy for those being moved, and includes a large amount of terrible pain. The IDF and the Israel Police did not just recruit large numbers of forces and materials for this mission, they also needed all their strength. The soldiers and police were well prepared for this difficult mission, not only to assure its completion, but also in the way it was carried out, with patience and humanity. We all saw the pictures from Gush Katif last week, unfortunately, with real expressions of pain and loss. We also saw rioters, who did not hesitate to physically harm soldiers and policemen. Those people will be brought to justice. We saw the determined actions of the police, who absorbed not only insults and curses but also physical attack. In all cases, they behaved with restraint and respect worthy of every praise.  hey should be appreciated not only for their determination and self-control, but also and mainly for their restraint. To cope with a person who is mentally and physically attacking you, whilst demonstrating empathy for his pain and to understand that a person is not himself at a time of sadness is not an easy thing to do. Therefore, all security forces personnel should receive full praise and appreciation. 

In addition, the settlers – barring a small minority – who were evacuated from their homes also deserve full praise and appreciation. On the most difficult day of their lives, they demonstrated responsibility and maturity, and they left their homes with their heads held high and with dignity. From now on, they deserve not only understanding and support, but also aid for their resettlement in establishing new and beautiful communities. After this difficult week, and ahead of the days ahead in which the evacuation will continue, I want to express my admiration and respect for Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi, and for every officer and policeman, as well as for Defense Minister Mofaz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Halutz and for the IDF commanders and soldiers. The Israel Police has demonstrated its courage, restraint, sympathy and humanity. I salute you, Israel Police. 

I thank the Israel Police for its cooperation with the IDF. The operation has yet to be completed, and I express my support for both the security forces and the settlers. I hope that at the end of this difficult operation we will emerge stronger, united, one nation. And to the Israel Police, once the evacuation is completed, we must return to our principle task – to fight crime and violence.”

Prime Minister Sharon responded to Education Minister Limor Livnat’s query regarding US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice’s remarks regarding post-disengagement moves. The Prime Minister said: “The US Secy. Of State expressed the hope, which we share, that after the implementation of the Disengagement Plan, the momentum will continue and conditions for progress according to the Roadmap will be created thereby. In this context, she noted unequivocally that the next step from the Palestinians’ perspective is the cessation of the terrorism and violence and the dismantling of the terrorist organizations, especially Hamas.

I want to reiterate and make it as clear as possible – Israel has accepted the Roadmap with those amendments that we have introduced to it. In order for it to be possible to enter the Roadmap and carry it out, the Palestinians must completely stop the terrorism, violence and incitement. Moreover, they need to dismantle the terrorist organizations and collect their weapons, carry out a series of reforms in various areas especially the security organizations, which I regard today as security/terrorist organizations. They must carry out genuine reforms; these matters are all written and clear. Without the foregoing – and I have no intention of conceding on them one iota – it will be impossible to  make progress according to the roadmap. These matters have already been said;  I have said them many times. I have said so here, in public and to the Americans; not once but dozens of times, including recently. I said so to President Putin when he visited here; I said them to the Turkish Prime Minister when he visited here, in my talks with the Indian Prime Minister – all these things have been said many times and there is no intention, however small, of deviating from this matter. I simply have no intention of doing so. These matters have been said, they are clear and unmistakable.

I reiterate and state – in the Disengagement Plan there is only one stage of disengagement. There is no stage after this one. The next stage in the diplomatic negotiations regards the Roadmap, but in order to enter the Roadmap, the things that I have already stated must take place – the cessation of the terrorism, violence and incitement; dismantling the terrorist organizations and impounding their weapons; and the carrying out of reforms in the terrorist organizations. I have already reiterated all of these things and I reiterate them once again. There is no second stage in the Disengagement Plan. There isn’t. There is only one thing – the possibility of moving towards the Roadmap and this is also our plan, when the Palestinians carry out everything that they must carry out.”

The Cabinet decided – in continuation of its 20 February 2005, 7 August 2005 and 15 August 2005 decisions – to approve the evacuation of both the fourth group of northern Gaza Strip communities (Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit) and the second group of northern Samaria communities (Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh) by the security forces.

2. The Cabinet approved the provision of financial assistance to those local authorities that are absorbing Gaza Strip and northern Samaria residents. The aid will be given to the Ashkelon Coast, Shaar Hanegev and Sapir regional councils, and to the Municipality of Ashkelon.

The Cabinet decided to appoint the Director-General of the Interior Ministry to chair a team to submit this week to the Ministerial Disengagement Committee a proposal regarding overall assistance to the aforementioned local authorities, in accordance with the plans submitted to the team by the authorities themselves.

3. The Cabinet appointed Prof. Nava Haruvi and attorney Bushra Jiris as members of Public Services – Water and Sewage Council.

4. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 2002 Culture and the Arts Law, accepted Education, Culture and Sports Minister Livnat’s proposal to appoint Haifa University Creative Arts Circle Director Philip Rentzer, Community Culture Council Chairman and former IBA Chairman Avraham Natan and cultural and arts community activist Katy Shetrit to the Israel Culture and Arts Council.