(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 15 January 2006:

1. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks at the start of the  meeting:

"This is our third meeting in the absence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is hospitalized at Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital. All of us are monitoring events with concern and we hope to hear good news regarding progress in his condition. We hope that we will soon see signs of recovery that will enable the Prime Minister to return to us.

In recent days, extremist elements have violently attacked security forces personnel who came to enforce the law in Hebron. The Government will not countenance the wild and unrestrained behavior that has taken place in recent days, especially last night in Hebron. I have instructed the heads of the security establishment to act assertively in preventing the continuation of such phenomena. The State of Israel is a state of law and whoever raises his hand will be severely punished."

2. Acting Prime Minister Olmert updated the Cabinet on the resignations of the four Likud ministers. He expressed regret over their resignations and said that he will appoint new ministers according to law. He emphasized that matters of state must be dealt with and they will be dealt with; administrative continuity will be maintained.

3. The Cabinet discussed procedures ahead of the upcoming Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative elections. Acting Prime Minister Olmert made the following remarks:

"Elections for the Palestinian Legislative council will be held on 25 Janaury 2006. The Palestinians – in contravention of agreements – have decided to allow Hamas to participate in the elections for the first time. Israel has expressed is position that while, in the wake of Hamas’s participation in the elections, it cannot cooperate with them, it will not prevent them. PA Chairman Abu Mazen promised the Americans and the international community that, after the elections, and following their results, he would be able to include the terrorist organizations in the Palestinian political structure and disband them. In recent weeks, due to internal problems in the PA and unrelated to Israel, the Palestinians have tried to postpone the elections and blame Israel, on the pretext that Israel is not allowing the elections to take place in eastern Jerusalem, as occurred in 1996 and 2005. According to the interim agreement, 5,000 people are allowed to vote in Jerusalem and in practice, approximately 1,200 did so in both 1996 and 2005.

The international community, led by the US, has expressed a determined position (see US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s remarks from last week) regarding the participation of terrorist organizations in the political system and has demanded that the PA act against them.

There are two alternatives: Not to allow the elections to be held in Jerusalem, which would lead to their postponement with Israel being blamed for all the repercussions. The second alternative is to hold the elections in Jerusalem, as was done previously, while taking strict care to remove all signs and symbols regarding Hamas, both before the elections and on election day. This is in order to deny the Palestinians an excuse to postpone the elections and evade their obligation to act against the terrorist organizations immediately after the elections."

The Cabinet decided as follows:

A. Elections (hereinafter "the elections") for the Palestinian Legislative Council are due to take place on 25 January 2006. The Government views with great importance the holding of elections in the PA; however, the participation in the elections of terrorist organizations, including Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel, fundamentally impairs the legitimacy of the elections and contravenes the interim agreement, as it also does accepted international criteria regarding the participation in elections of parties that support violence and terrorism. The international community ascribes great importance to these elections as a step which will lead to the disarming of the terrorist organizations. To this end, it has appealed to the State of Israel to support and assist, as much as possible, in assuring that the PA elections are held.  For the aforesaid reasons, Israel has announced that it will not prevent the elections from taking place but in light of the participation in the elections of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, Israel will not cooperate with them.

B. The IDF and the security forces will take such steps as are necessary to enable the elections to be held. The arrangements will be coordinated by the authorized IDF and Israel Police commanders and will be operated in keeping with necessary security considerations, including (inter alia):

i. Opening hours at the crossings will be expanded on Election Day itself, as per needs;

ii. Freedom of movement and passage will be allowed for those involved in the elections (candidates and  activists except for those identified with terrorist organizations);

iii. Existing coordination mechanisms under the auspices of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Civil Administration and the Erez DCO will provide immediate responses to such problems as may arise regarding the transportation, distribution and setting up of elections equipment, as well as the movement of those involved in the elections (candidates, voters and observers).

iv. The presence, and freedom of movement, of international observers (and local observers not identified with terrorist organizations) will be allowed;

v. The movement of journalists (including between the PA areas) with permits for entry by foreign media personnel will be allowed.

C. Pursuant to Article 3a of the 1994 Law Implementing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (Restriction on Activity) and Article 4 of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Annex II – Protocol Concerning Elections), and in keeping with changes stemming from the increase in the Palestinian population:

i. Election propaganda by persons identified with terrorist organizations will not be permitted within Jerusalem;

ii. Nothing in the foregoing shall detract from the rights of law enforcement and security authorities to arrest, detain, investigate, try and/or carry out any other necessary law enforcement or security activity regarding terrorist organization activists, including on election day;

iii. In those post office branches operated by the Postal Authority in order to provide services on Election Day, no signs or symbols of terrorist organizations shall be permitted;

iv. The Minister of Communications will instruct the Postal Authority regarding the implementation of the foregoing pursuant to his authority according to the 1996 Law Implementing the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Jurisdiction and Other Instructions).

D. Nothing in this agreement shall, either directly or indirectly, impair the State of Israel’s full and complete sovereignty over Jerusalem as its united capital, or constitute agreement or approval of the integrity of the elections or their being held pursuant to the Interim Agreement, the Roadmap or accepted democratic criteria.

The second Palestinian Legislative Council elections are due to be held on 25 January 2006 (the first were held on 20 January 1996). These elections are very important regarding the creation of a new PA administration, which is due to carry out the necessary reforms and uphold its commitments, according to the Roadmap as was approved by the Government, i.e. the elimination of terrorism and the disbanding of its infrastructures, the carrying out of comprehensive reforms and additional commitments that the PA took upon itself. The international community expects the State of Israel to assist in the proper holding of elections.

Due to the participation of Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, Israel has announced that it will not cooperate with these elections and will not coordinate them on a political level with the PA. However, Israel will not prevent the elections from being held. As per the PA’s commitments, both according to the Roadmap and those made in contacts it has held with international community representatives, the Palestinians have announced that immediately after the elections and as a result of them, they will act to disband the terrorist organizations and their infrastructures. Therefore, Israel ascribes great importance to the holding of the elections and to not furnishing the Palestinians with an excuse to shirk their commitments.

In order not to disturb the proper holding of elections in Judea and Samaria, the Government has authorized IDF and Israel Police commanders to deal with matters regarding the elections and to determine course of action vis-a-vis the PA security organizations as per security needs.

The format of the elections regarding voting by Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem will be as was determined in 1996, with such changes as mainly stem from restrictions on terrorist organization activity and population growth.

The Israel Police will consider propaganda activities that the Palestinian side requests to hold in Jerusalem. All events in public places will require a police permit. Special arrangements will be determined for the affixing of propaganda notices. As was done in the past, marches and rallies in streets and open areas will not be permitted in Jerusalem; large notices shall not be affixed to vehicles. The police will not allow propaganda and related activities by terrorist organizations.

As per the foregoing decision, Acting Prime Minister Olmert has issued the following instructions:

  • The security establishment will prepare so as to enable the proper holding of elections in Judea and Samaria without any infringement or compromise on Israeli security; the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories shall continue to hold ongoing contacts with the Palestinian elections committee;
  • The Israel Police will prepare so as to enable the holding of elections in five post office branches, while taking strict care that no sign or symbol of Hamas will be permitted in Jerusalem both in the context of elections propaganda and on Election Day;
  • The Israel Police will cooperate with the Foreign Ministry and the Communications Ministry  in holding the necessary contacts, on a technical level, with the Palestinian elections committee;
  • The Foreign Ministry will render all necessary assistance to foreign observer missions so that Israel is not seen by them as causing the elections to fail;
  • The Communications Ministry will prepare to operate five post office branches as was done in the past;
  • The Municipality of Jerusalem will prepare in order to prevent any sign or symbol of Hamas in Jerusalem and to remove all elections propaganda in Jerusalem immediately after the elections.

4. The Cabinet, pursuant to its authority under the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), appointed Ozer Berkovich as the Finance Ministry Director of Wages and Work Agreements.

5. The Cabinet approved the national infrastructure plan regarding the Ofakim-Be’er Sheva section of the Ashkelon-Be’er Sheva railway.

6. The Cabinet, pursuant to its authority under the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments) and according to the recommendation of Civil Service Commission, decided to exempt from public tender two senior positions in the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry and the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, respectively.

7. The Cabinet appointed Avraham Binyamin as non-resident Ambassador to Mozambique, in addition to his position of Ambassador to Angola.

8. The Cabinet decided to act to complete sewage and waste infrastructures in Arab, Druze, Circassian and northern Bedouin communities. To this end, NIS 400 million will be budgeted over the years 2005-2007.

9. The Cabinet decided to instruct the Interior Ministry to assist the relevant local authorities in financing the community administration costs at the temporary residential sites for residents from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, in order to enable the preservation of community frameworks during the temporary residential period and during the transition to permanent communities, at the following rates:

  • Communities of 20-50 families – up to NIS 5,500 per month;
  • Communities of 50-100 families – up to NIS 11,000 per month;
  • Communities of over 100 families – up to NIS 22,000 per month;
  • Educational institutions with at least 150 students, that is continuing to operate – up to NIS 11,000 per month.

Financial transfers to the local authorities will be in keeping with those procedures that have been agreed upon between the SELA Disengagement Authority and the Interior Ministry regarding the use of aid funds that are given in order to maintain community frameworks at temporary residential sites. The overall cost of employing someone engaged in full-time community administration shall not exceed NIS 11,000 per month.

The Cabinet also decided to instruct the National Religious Services Authority to finance the costs involved in employing rabbis at the temporary residential sites for residents from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, as per the communities’ choices, according to rules determined by the Authority’s legal bureau, and according to the following criteria:

  • Communities of 50-100 families – one rabbi;
  • Communities over 100 families – up to two rabbis.

The employment costs will be determined by the Authority.

Community administration costs, and the costs involved in employing rabbis, at the temporary residential sites will be financed for a period of up to two years (2006-2007) or until such time as the residents move to permanent communities, whichever comes earlier.

More than 75% of residents from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria currently reside at various temporary residential sites throughout the country.

The Interior Ministry will transfer the aforesaid budgets to the local authorities in keeping with the procedures that will be determined. The local authorities will in the appropriate cases both transfer the budgets directly to the local committees in the receiving communities and supervise their use.

10. The Cabinet, pursuant to Basic Law: The Government, decided to approve Acting Education, Culture and Sports Minister Ehud Olmert’s recommendation to appoint MK Majli Wahabee as Deputy Minister in the Education, Culture and Sports Ministry.