(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 18 December 2005:

1. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi (Farkash), and ISA Director Yuval Diskin briefed ministers on current security matters.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that recent events have been characterized by the perpetration of terrorist attacks by terrorist elements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, against the background of the growing ineffectualness of the Palestinian Authority. In recent days there has been an increase in the number of rocket launchings from the Gaza Strip against Israel by the various Palestinian organizations. Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the firing at Ashkelon and for a large part of the other incidents, and has declared that it intends to continue launching rockets at Israel. In Judea and Samaria, the organizations are continuing to act to perpetrate terrorist attacks on the roads.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that the security establishment is currently acting against a series of focused warnings of intentions to perpetrate terrorist attacks.

Regarding Judea and Samaria, since the 5 December 2005 suicide bombing at the Sharon Mall in Netanya, the IDF and the ISA are continuing counter-terrorist operations with an emphasis on Islamic Jihad. The northern Samaria region has been cut off; arrests of terrorists are being carried out there.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that he has ordered an increase in intelligence activity and stepped-up checks at crossings, as well as expanded defensive action along the seam line and in the greater Jerusalem area. The closure that was imposed on Judea and Samaria last Thursday will continue except for the continued transfer of goods at the Karni crossing.

Regarding the firing of Kassam rockets and mortars, Defense Minister Mofaz directed the IDF to act uncompromisingly – from the air and from the ground – against launching centers and areas of activity.

The PA is currently characterized by inaction and a lack of leadership regarding security and counter-terrorist actions; the meager activity and motivation are creating an intolerable and problematic situation from Israel’s point-of-view. The PA is in the throes of a severe crisis. The Fatah movement’s defeat in the current round of local authority elections characterizes the movement’s situation, as well as Abu Mazen’s problematic situation.  Hamas’s achievements in the local elections are a source of shock and concern for the PA; the escalation in terrorism and internal anarchy are in addition to the growing economic crisis given the donor countries’ refusal to invest in the PA in its current situation.

Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the situation in the north, which has been characterized by continued Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah cooperation.

OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Zeevy (Farkash) informed ministers that this would apparently be his last briefing as OC Intelligence. He paid tribute to the excellent people with whom he has served. He thanked the Cabinet, especially Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Mofaz, who allowed him freedom of opinion and the necessary independence to express his views regarding intelligence matters.

Prime Minister Sharon, on behalf of the Cabinet, deeply thanked OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Zeevi (Farkash) for his very thorough work over a prolonged period: “I think that you have done very major and important working providing the Government with information in order to make decisions and in many other areas as well. I think that your achievements in recent years have greatly contributed to Israel’s capabilities. I would like you to thank – on our behalf – the officers, staffs and other personnel who worked with you and made possible the aforesaid achievements. I wish you success in your future endeavors.”

2. In the framework of resettling the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria evacuees, the Cabinet decided to establish – via, inter alia, the Construction and Housing Ministry – a temporary residential; site at the community of Shomriya, and to allocate NIS 45 million to this end. Establishing the site will entail purchasing 35 mobile residential structures; refurbishing 45 apartments, kindergartens and daycare centers; purchasing and building public and educational structures; preparing the ground; development work; building a water purification plant and paving an access road.

3. The Cabinet discussed the implementation of the Tal Law.