(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 11 September 2005:

1. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), decided to appoint Yaakov Toren as Defense Ministry Director-General instead of Amos Yaron, effective 15 September 2005.

Ministers took their leave of outgoing Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron and expressed their appreciation both for his abilities and his unparalleled dedication.  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also spoke very highly of him.

2. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), decided to appoint David Lefler as Science and Technology Ministry Director-General.

3. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), decided to appoint Shalom Ben Moshe to head the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry unit dealing with foreign workers.

4. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 2004 Benjamin Zeev (Theodor) Herzl Law, decided to appoint the following persons to the Public Council on Enshrining the Memory of Benjamin Zeev (Theodor) Herzl: Yael Cohen – Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) employee, upon the recommendation of Prime Minister Sharon; Shmuel Hollander – civil servant, upon the recommendation of Prime Minister Sharon; Prof. Uriel Reichman – public representative and academic; Dr. Daniel Poliser – public representative and academic; Aryeh Muallem – Defense Ministry employee, upon the recommendation of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz; Prof. Yaakov Katz – Education, Culture and Sports Ministry employee, upon the recommendation of Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat; Leah Rosenberg – Education, Culture and Sports Ministry employee, upon the recommendation of Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat; Paula Edelstein – World Zionist Organization (WZO) representative, upon the recommendation of WZO Chairman Zeev Bielski; David Brixton – World Zionist Organization (WZO) representative, upon the recommendation of WZO Chairman Zeev Bielski;; Helena Glaser – World Zionist Organization (WZO) representative, upon the recommendation of WZO Chairman Zeev Bielski; and Shai Hermesh – World Zionist Organization (WZO) representative, upon the recommendation of WZO Chairman Zeev Bielski.

5. The Cabinet, in accordance with the 1986 Postal Authority Law, decided to approve the Postal Authority Council decision to – in accordance with Communications Minister Dalia Itzik’s recommendation – appoint Avraham Hochman as the Postal Authority Director instead of Yossi Sheli.

6. In continuation of its previous decisions to increase jobs in the periphery, the Cabinet decided to include Safed in the list of communities that will receive assistance in establishing telephone service and support centers.

7. The Cabinet discussed the end of Israel’s presence in the Gaza Strip and along the Philadelphi corridor. Defense Minister Mofaz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, ISA Director Yuval Diskin and the IDF Intelligence Corps Director of Research briefed ministers on these issues.

Following the discussion, the Cabinet decided to end the Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip and along the Philadelphi corridor. The Cabinet decided that in accordance with its 6 June 2004 decision on the Disengagement Plan, the IDF would withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip, including the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (the Philadelphi corridor). The withdrawal of the forces will be carried out according to a timetable to be determined by the security establishment as per operational needs in the field.

Upon the withdrawal of IDF forces from the foregoing areas, responsibility for them will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the military administration in the Gaza Strip will end. The security establishment, in coordination with the Justice, Foreign and Interior ministries, will work to determine procedures for the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt – on the basis of the principles that have been set by Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (the Security Cabinet).

8. The Cabinet discussed the issue of Gaza Strip and northern Samaria residents lodging in hotels and decided as follows:

To allocate to the PMO, in the framework of the SELA Disengagement Authority, an additional budget of NIS 30 million designated for hotels, via the Defense Ministry, in order to lodge residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.  Financing said lodging will be in accordance with the following:
A) Residents lodging in hotels and who have been allocated available temporary housing will move to the temporary housing by 18 September 2005. Those who have been allocated temporary housing will leave the hotel within three days.
B) As of 15 September 2005, residents will have to commit to a NIS 150 per family deductible.
C) As of 6 October 2005, residents will have to commit to a NIS 300 per family deductible.
D) As of 25 September 2005, the state will no longer finance lodging for residents who have not filed claims for compensation and/or claims to receive compensation advances.
E) On 31 October 2005, as a rule, the state will no longer finance residents’ lodging in hotels.
F) The SELA Disengagement Authority, via the Defense Ministry, will coordinate with the hotels regarding this decision; said coordination will provide for – inter alia – the collection of the aforementioned deductibles directly by the hotels.
G) The SELA Disengagement Authority will inform residents regarding the uniform rules that have been determined regarding the number of rooms per family.
H) The SELA Disengagement Authority will inform residents regarding the non-financing of additional services that are not included in the price of the full-board lodging required by the residents.
I) The SELA Disengagement Authority will inform residents lodging in hotels in writing regarding the foregoing.
J) The SELA Disengagement Authority is entitled to – in consultation with PMO Director-General Ilan Cohen and the Finance Ministry Budget Director – set lower deductible than those mentioned above for groups or families on condition that the parties agree on a date by which the residents will move to either temporary or permanent housing.

9. The Cabinet decided, in accordance with Article 18 of Basic Law: President of the State, that President Moshe Katsav will officially visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, in accordance with invitations from their respective presidents, from 19-22 September 2005.

10. The Cabinet discussed Defense Minister Mofaz’s proposal not to demolish structures that served as synagogues in the evacuated Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. In this regard, Prime Minister Sharon said:

“On 6 June 2004, the Cabinet approved the Disengagement Plan, and in the framework of that decision approved the dismantling of the synagogues. It had also been thus determined in the original Disengagement Plan. It will be recalled that the Knesset approved the Disengagement Plan.

Approximately one month ago, we received an appeal regarding the future of structures that had served as synagogues. Perhaps the opponents thought that this issue as well need not be dealt with because the Plan would not be carried out. We worked on the issue of dismantling the synagogues for months according to directives from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and President of the Chief Rabbinical Council Rabbi Yonah Metzger and IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss. The contents of the synagogues were evacuated without exception, including sacred objects, furnishings, memorial boards, arks, etc. and any other object that attested to having been used in a synagogue.

The Cabinet decision withstood a test in the High Court of Justice, which determined – twice – that the fate of structures which had served as synagogues was within the Government’s purview. I have recently heard wild and unbridled attacks against the High Court of Justice. These were not criticisms but misplaced attacks, remarks deserving of all condemnation of the kind that we heard throughout the implementation of the Disengagement Plan. It was not the High Court of Justice which decided to dismantle the synagogues; the High Court of Justice determined that this issue was within the Government’s purview and there are no grounds for attacking this decision.

The Cabinet discussed this issue two weeks ago. Following the discussion, we did not change the decision and we instructed the security establishment to continue dealing with the issue vis-a-vis the Chief Rabbis. At the same time, we appealed to the Palestinians and the international community which said that said that it was beyond their ability to preserve the structures. Similarly, Defense Minister Mofaz updated me that no engineering solution had been found for moving the structures that had served as synagogues intact.

A difficult question stands before us – whether to dismantle them or leave them in place, both options are bad and we must choose the least bad. I gave my opinion two weeks ago and it is also my opinion and assessment today, in light of the experience we have gained, that the Palestinian masses will destroy the structures that served as synagogues and desecrate them.  I told this to you and to the rabbis. However, since there is no engineering solution for moving them intact, and since Defense Minister Mofaz recommends leaving them in place, and since the rabbinical community has explicitly said that it is preferable that the IDF not dismantle them even at the price of knowing that the Palestinian masses will desecrate them, my position is that the empty structures that served as synagogues must be left in place. It is to be expected that even after appeals from rabbis around the world and from President Moshe Katsav, which the Government has acceded to, that there will be attacks on the Government.  I already heard the first one this morning from one of the rabbis. I expect that ministers will act together on this issue.”

11. The Cabinet noted that Prime Minister Sharon will travel to the US from 13-19 September 2005, in order to attend and address the UN General Assembly session marking the UN’s 60th anniversary and in order to meet world and Jewish community leaders.