(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 4 September 2005:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the following remarks: “At the start of the meeting, I would like to send our condolences to the American people and to people in the southern US who were struck by such a severe disaster. It seems to me that the US has been caught up in one of its worst disasters ever. Last week I sent a letter to US President George Bush in which I expressed my condolences and those of the Israeli people over the disaster. I want to thank Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Health Minister Danny Naveh whom we turned to in order to verify what aid for the US victims could be readied within a short time. Within a few hours I received answers and thus I was able to pass on the estimates regarding the assistance that Israel could render. A Defense Ministry and Health Ministry aid delegation will leave this week in order to coordinate what may be done there.

I want to point out that the US has stood by us during difficult times and it is our duty to assist it in the areas in which we can help. I want to reiterate my condolences and my sharing in the grief there. We will do everything in our power to render assistance in the difficult situation in which so many US citizens find themselves.”

2. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that following the evacuation of the residents from the communities in the Gaza Strip, the evacuation of the movable property and the demolition of the structures, there still remains the question of the synagogues, which is due to be decided today by the High Court of Justice. The evacuation of the IDF’s protective equipment and IDF’ s redeployment to its new deployment line are being carried out.  The Defense Minister discussed the upcoming deployment of Egyptian border guards along the Philadelphi corridor. He emphasized that the timetable for the departure of IDF forces from the Gaza Strip centered on 15 September 2005, with a resolution of the synagogues issue in accordance with today’s High Court of Justice decision being necessary by that date, as well as the completion of the withdrawal of the IDF’s protective equipment. The Defense Minister stressed that there are still warnings of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria and inside Israeli territory; the security establishment is making major efforts to foil and prevent these attacks. He also discussed the work being done on the security fence. In summation, he said that the disengagement process was under good control and oversight.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom briefed ministers on Israel’s contacts with a series of countries, including Pakistan. He said that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had decided – in light of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip – to raise the level of the dialogue and give a public platform to links between Israel and Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shalom described his meeting in Turkey with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri with the blessings of both Pakistani President Musharraf and Prime Minister Sharon. The Foreign Minister views this meeting as historic and pointed out that Pakistan was the second largest Islamic nation in the world. He expressed the hope that additional countries with which Israel maintains contacts will be inspired to follow Pakistani President Musharraf’s brave lead and agree to shed light on the dialogue between them and Israel. He said that now was the time to strengthen moderates in the region so that they would normalize relations with Israel.

Foreign Minister Shalom also discussed the Iranian nuclear issue.

3. Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education, Culture and Sports Ministry Director-General Ronit Tirosh briefed ministers on the start of the 2005-2006 academic year, which passed without incident, and on the care of students who were evacuated from the communities in the Gaza Strip.

Regarding school security, Prime Minister Sharon instructed Education Minister Livnat and Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra to find a budgetary solution with the agreement of parents’ organizations and in coordination with the Finance Ministry. The ministers will report back to the Government within 14 days.

4. Public Security Minister Ezra and Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi briefed ministers on the issues of crime and road accidents in the past year. The Police Commissioner referred to the recent cracking of several criminal organizations and discussed the main components of criminal activity in 2005.

Prime Minister Sharon referred to the victims of the terrorist attack in Shfaram: “There is a problem with the law on compensating victims of terrorism. The law recognizes only those victims of acts perpetrated by organizations hostile to Israel. There are instances, like the terrorist attack in Shfaram, in which it is not clear if the terrorist belongs to a hostile organization. In such cases, the victims’ families are obliged to appeal to a special committee in order to receive what they deserve beyond the letter of the law. On the morning after the attack, I said that the families’ eligibility must be recognized; however, this must be set forth in law and not be via a special committee. Last week, I asked Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon to contact Attorney General Meni Mazuz on this issue in order to amend the law. I am instructing Justice Minister Tzipi Livni that her ministry work together with the Defense and Social Affairs ministries in order to formulate an amendment to the law and sort out this problem as soon as possible.”

Prime Minister Sharon said that the struggle against violence, drugs and road accidents must be one of the Government’s main goals in the coming working year and added that he intends to concentrate on this issue. He instructed Public Security Minister Ezra and Police Commissioner Karadi to make every effort to increase dealing with violence in all its forms and to do so without compromise.

5. The Cabinet decided to allocate an additional NIS 10 million budget to the Prime Minister’s Office in order to continue full board hotel lodging for Gaza Strip and northern Samaria evacuees. The Cabinet also decided that this issue would be discussed at the next meeting of the Ministerial Disengagement Committee.

6. The Cabinet decided to approve Communications Minister Dalia Itzik’s proposal, in accordance with the 1986 Postal Authority Law, to appoint consumer representative Jubran Annan to the Postal Authority Council for another term.

7. The Cabinet passed several amendments to the tenant’s protection regulations.

8. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), to appoint Aryeh Bar as Transportation Ministry Director-General as of 19 September 2005. Prime Minister Sharon welcomed Bar’s appointment and commended outgoing Transportation Ministry Director-General Benzion Solomon.