(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

The Cabinet, at its weekly meeting today (Sunday), 28 August 2005:

1. Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education, Culture briefed ministers on various issues ahead of the opening of the 2005-2006 academic year. Approximately 1,757,967 students will be enrolled in schools and kindergartens during the coming academic year.

2. Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi and ISA Director Yuval Diskin gave a preliminary briefing on the terrorist attack that took place this morning at the Beersheba Central Bus Station.

3. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel Police Commissioner Karadi, ISA Director Diskin and OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevy (Farkash) briefed ministers on the implementation of the Disengagement Plan, including those issues that, upon implementation, will lead to the evacuation of the Gaza Strip by the IDF. It was pointed out that the evacuation of 25 communities, including – inter alia – approximately 1,600 families, has been completed. Among the issues that were discussed were – inter alia – the evacuation of movable property from the aforementioned communities and the demolition of the communities, the evacuation of the Neveh Dekalim cemetery. ISA Director Diskin and OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Zeevy (Farkash) briefed ministers on the effect of the evacuation on the various Palestinian organizations and Palestinian Authority Abbas, on the three recent incidents of Jewish terrorism (in Shfaram and Shilo, and the throwing of a pig’s head at the Hassan Bek Mosque in Jaffa) that were perpetrated in Israel in order to disrupt and/or harm the Disengagement Plan.

Defense Minister Mofaz noted that the first stage of the population evacuation passed peacefully. He commended the impressive and praiseworthy activity of the IDF, the Israel Police and other elements in implementing the Plan, which enabled the significant bringing forward of the timetables. He pointed out the praiseworthy cooperation between the IDF and the Israel Police.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that the demolition work and the evacuation of movable property, the dismantling of infrastructures and the delicate processes of moving graves from the Neveh Dekalim cemetery and synagogues from the various communities, have yet to be completed.

4. Ministers discussed the issue of moving synagogues from the various communities in the Gaza Strip.  Chief Rabbis Shaul Amar and Yonah Metzger, IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss, Haifa Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Chen, Rehovot Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook and Be’er Sheva Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri briefed ministers on the Chief Rabbinate Council’s decision regarding the ban on demolishing synagogues and on the various rabbinical decisions authorizing moving synagogues from the evacuated communities.

Prime Minister Sharon said, following the Cabinet’s discussion on the issue: “We have the rabbis’ views.  We have also heard what will likely happen to the synagogues if they are not evacuated and I can add from my experience what will happen to the synagogues. We have acted in accordance with Jewish law to move those parts of the synagogues that will be dismantled, moved and reassembled in the communities that will be built. We decided – and I repeat – that synagogues will be built for those communities that have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip.

I am instructing the security establishment and the Prime Minister’s Office to continue working with the Chief Rabbis in order to move those components that can be moved from the synagogues.

We heard the rabbis’ heartfelt remarks but we are working according to the current assessments regarding what will happen to the synagogues and are doing everything in order to move those parts that can be moved – as per Defense Minister Mofaz’s remarks.”

5. The Cabinet approved the military arrangement with Egypt regarding the deployment of Egyptian Border Guards along the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi corridor, on the section that parallels the Gaza Strip.

The arrangement specifies that in accordance with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and based on both the principles that have been outlined by the Egyptian and Israeli Defense Ministers and the understandings that have been reached at meetings between senior Israeli and Egyptian officials regarding – inter alia  the deployment of Egyptian Border Guard units along the border in the Rafiah area:

Basic principles:

Both sides will assure that actions or threats of smuggling, infiltrations and/or terrorism, will neither stem from, nor be carried from inside, their territories, including by any sort of element found in their territories, against the population, citizens or property of the other side.

Both sides are bound, each in its own territory, to fulfilling their commitments and responsibilities according to the peace treaty. Moreover, they hereby recognize that systematic and systemic efforts are required in order to fight cross-border terrorism, smuggling and infiltrations.

The deployment of Egyptian Border Guards and the mission that they are charged with are, inter alia: fighting cross-border terrorism, smuggling and infiltrations in order to prevent these illegal actions in its area of activity and providing security for the border in its area of activity in order to promote stability and law enforcement by preventing illegal activities.

Both sides recognize that the aforementioned deployment of border guards and concomitant arrangements do not in any way constitute an amendment, reconsideration or change to Annex 1 of the peace treaty. They constitute additional security measures that the sides have agreed to in order to strengthen the security arrangements included in the security annex.

The agreement specifies that the Border Guards will deploy along an approximately 14-kilometer stretch between the Mediterranean Sea coastline, on the Egyptian side of the border, to the point opposite Kerem Shalom.

The Border Guard force (hereinafter: the “force”) will be composed of 750 Border Guard personnel, constituting a headquarters and four companies, supported by air and sea components and their crews.  The force will replace the Egyptian civilian police currently deployed in the area of activity.

The force’s weapons, infrastructure and equipment will only be that which the sides have agreed are essential to the force’s mission, and which have been detailed in these agreed-upon arrangements. All weapons or equipment except those which have been explicitly agreed to by the sides will continue to be barred from use in the area of activity. The establishment of headquarters (except for those essential to the force’s activity, as agreed upon between the sides), ammunition depots or fortifications in the area of activity, will also continue to be prohibited. The force’s weapons and ammunition will be stored only in unfortified warehouses.

The sides will directly and continuously coordinate regarding operations and intelligence, assisted by a liaison network, in order to promote the effective and successful implementation of the force’s mission and in order to prevent operational mishaps.

One year after the force’s deployment and at the end of each subsequent year – or at any other time agreed upon by the sides – the overall effort described in the agreement will be bilaterally assessed by the sides according to the criteria agreed-upon between the sides.

At the same time, the sides will assess the continued need to deploy the force. The sides will be able to mutually decide to take additional or other measures beyond the scope and characteristics included in this document, in other areas. All decisions regarding the future deployment, reduction or withdrawal of the force will be made bilaterally between the sides.

The agreement also specifies regarding detailed arrangements regarding infrastructures, weapons and intelligence equipment, liaison and coordination, meetings between field officers, commanders and investigators, aerial and maritime activity; and refers to the multi-national force and observers and to the general arrangements.

6. The Cabinet decided to ratify the 30 June 2005 memorandum of understanding between the Israeli and Egyptian governments regarding the supply of Egyptian natural gas to Israel, to authorize Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to carry out the decision and instructed all relevant ministries to act – each in its own field – according to promote the implementation of the memorandum so as to enable the start of the supply of Egyptian natural gas no later than 31 December 2006.

National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefed Prime Minister Sharon on progress in implementing the memorandum of understanding.

7. The Cabinet issued its approval in principle of the draft 2005 Mandatory Tenders Law and authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve the final wording of the draft law that will be submitted to the Knesset.

8. The Cabinet, by virtue of its authority under the 1960 Israel Land Administration Law, decided to appoint the following persons as members – on behalf of both the Government and the JNF – of the ILA Council: Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry Director-General Yossi Yishai, Interior Ministry Planning Authority Director Shamai Asif, Construction and Housing Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav, Finance Ministry Deputy Budget Director Harel Belinda, Negev Development Authority representative Meir Sahar, Kasam Muhammad – public representative, Ali Ziwad Muhammad – public representative, JNF Director-General Yitzhak Elyashiv, JNF Deputy Chairman Menachem Lebovitz, JNF Board of Directors member Mordechai Magar and JNF Board of Directors Member Arik Hadad.

9. The Cabinet appointed Uri Orr as a member of the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority plenum as a representative of the JNF for a four-year term.

10. The Cabinet, in accordance with Article 24b of Basic Law: The Government, appointed Minister Matan Vilnai as Acting Minister of Science and Technology in place of Prime Minister Sharon. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will be duly notified regarding the decision.