(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 16 July 2006:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks: “This is a very difficult morning for all of us. The severe blows on Haifa follow the murderous attacks on population centers throughout the country. These attacks are designed to hurt civilians because this is Hizbullah’s criminal war against Israel and its residents. On behalf of the Cabinet and the people of Israel, I would like to send condolences to the families of those IDF soldiers and civilians who were killed and best wishes for a full recovery to those who were wounded, and to embrace the abductees and their families.

Several days ago, the State of Israel was attacked from the north. This attack follows the terrorist attack from the Gaza Strip. In both instances, the attacks began without any reason and they are mostly directed against innocent Israeli civilians within the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. In both the north and the south, there is no claim by any regional or international element whatsoever that Israel is in an area the sovereignty of which is disputed. The State of Israel cannot countenance this. We have no interest or desire to hurt the Lebanese or the Palestinian peoples. We want to live our lives quietly and to be good neighbors.

To my regret, there were those who incorrectly interpreted our aspiration to live in peace. We have no intention to give in to these threats. We know that many tests yet await us. Our enemies are trying to disrupt life in Israel – they will fail. The public is strong and united in this struggle.

In both north and south, the resolve being demonstrated by the public is an important part of the strength of the State of Israel and we are very proud of this.  We must show patience and forbearance. This struggle is under no time constraints; this is a daily struggle and we – the Israeli government and public – will continue to show equanimity, determination and sagacity as necessary.  Our struggle is both moral and just and no other people in the free world would act as we have.

The government is ready to extend immediate assistance to the residents of the north – in all areas. Government representatives, at all levels, have been instructed to formulate a socio-economic assistance plan. Throughout the operation, an interministerial Directors-General committee, chaired by Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Director-General Ra’anan Dinur will – in full coordination with the Finance Ministry – provide assistance as necessary to the residents.

The decisions that we face are difficult and complex. My government is determined to continue doing whatever is necessary in order to achieve our goals. Nothing will deter us, whatever far-reaching ramifications regarding our relations on the northern border and in the region there may be.

In conclusion, I would like to tell Defense Minister Amir Peretz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi and all members of the IDF and the security services: I am proud to live in a state with such an army and with such security services. Continue the struggle without hesitation, the entire people of Israel are behind you.”

Defense Minister Peretz, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Halutz, GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin, Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin, Israel Police Commissioner Karadi and Home Front Commander Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon briefed ministers on current events regarding the security forces’ fighting against Hizbullah, the activities of the IDF Home Front Command and the Israel Police regarding the home front in the north, and assistance to citizens that have been wounded.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed ministers on the position of the international community regarding the fighting in Lebanon. She discussed Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s speech in which he proposed a ceasefire and to deploy the Lebanese Army in the south, and the recent UN Security Council discussion on the crisis between Israel and Lebanon.

Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson briefed ministers on the consultations he held last Friday, 14 July 2006, with the participation of Finance Ministry and Bank of Israel personnel on the economic situation and the attitude of the international community to the Israeli economy during the fighting. He said that the Israeli economy was stable and strong and added that the international community had expressed confidence in its stability. He noted that Finance Ministry personnel are tomorrow (Monday), 17 July 2006, going to the communities that have been hit by Katyusha barrages in order to assess the damages.

Prime Minister Olmert said that since last Wednesday, 12 July 2006, approximately 1,400 rockets have landed inside Israel. “1,400 hits means 1,400 attempts to attack citizens of the state of Israel in their homes and places of work with unparalleled and bloodthirsty cruelty and brutality. We see here the gap between us when we act with exemplary caution and respect for the sanctity of life and human dignity – and the brutality that we see on their part.”

Prime Minister Olmert emphasized that Israel is not fighting Lebanon but the terrorist element there, led by Nasrallah and his cohorts, who have made Lebanon a hostage and created Syrian- and Iranian-sponsored terrorist enclaves of murder.

Prime Minister Olmert said that the State of Israel’s greatest asset at the current time is the spirit of its people, who give strength, security and encouragement that it is possible to be proud of. “Whoever does not understand the ability of this people shows that he has learned nothing from the years of the intifada. Haifa, which endured the 4 October 2003 terrorist bombing at the Maxim restaurant and the 31 March 2002 bombing at the Matza restaurant? Haifa has known bereavement over the years but has been resolute; these Katyushas will not frighten it, these rockets will not subdue us. The strength is given to us by this nation, this spirit and the bravery of these soldiers, from the professionalism of the security forces. The wisdom to define the correct boundaries, knowing against who and what, how many, when and where, when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’, this is our responsibility.

It must be clear that Israel will not return to the status quo that prevailed before last Wednesday; this situation was intolerable from the outset.”

Prime Minister Olmert added that in continuation of Defense Minister Peretz’ s decision from last night to declare a special situation on the home front, the Cabinet would discuss the extension of the order beyond the 48 hours from the time of the declaration, after it receives the recommendations of the aforementioned interministerial team chaired by PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur and after they have been examined by Prime Minister Olmert, Finance Minister Hirchson and Defense Minister Peretz.

Prime Minister Olmert referred to the Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev families, whose sons have been kidnapped: “I know what situation these families are in and I tell them that Defense Minister Peretz and I are certain that all of us see the abducted soldiers before our eyes all the time. We need to do everything to bring them back home. The entire Jewish people is concerned for them. We must act here with courage, responsibility and caution and we must try to do so with all our hearts.”

Prime Minister Olmert said that we would continue in this campaign as necessary and added that it is clear to all that we will not stop until we can tell the Israeli people that the threat hanging over it has been removed.

The Cabinet decided: “In continuation of Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s decision at 21:30 last night (Saturday), 15 July 2006, regarding the declaration of a ‘special situation on the home front’ as detailed in the declaration, the Cabinet would discuss the extension of the order beyond the 48 hours from the time of the declaration, after it receives the recommendations of the aforementioned interministerial team chaired by PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur and with the participation of representatives from the Defense, Finance, Justice, Industry, Trade and Employment, Tourism, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health, Interior and Public Security ministries, and the Vice Premier’s Office, and any other relevant ministry according to the decision of PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur. The interministerial team’s recommendations will be examined by Prime Minister Olmert, Finance Minister Hirchson and Defense Minister Peretz before being submitted for Cabinet approval.”

2. The Cabinet approved the following Foreign Service appointments:
Anna Azari – Ambassador to Mexico;
Yaakov Rosen – Ambassador to Jordan;
Daniel Shek – Ambassador to France and Non-Resident Ambassador to Monaco;
Noah Gendler – Ambassador to Bulgaria;
Tzion Evroni – Ambassador to Ireland;
Chen Evri – Ambassador to Latvia and Non-Resident Ambassador to Lithuania; Zeev Boker – Ambassador to Slovakia;
Ran Shai – Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Non-Resident Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan;
Avraham Hadad – Ambassador to Cyprus;
Daniel Kedem – Ambassador to Ivory Coast and Non-Resident ambassador to Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Liberia;
Gideon Bachar – Ambassador to Senegal and Non-Resident Ambassador to Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Gambia;
Ehud Eitam – Ambassador to Costa Rica and Non-Resident Ambassador to Nicaragua;
Gideon Meir – Ambassador to Italy and non-Resident Ambassador to San Marino;
Eli Yehiye – Ambassador to Greece;
Ilan Alger – Ambassador to Switzerland and Non-Resident Ambassador to Liechtenstein;
Yitzhak Bachman – Ambassador to Guatemala and Non-Resident Ambassador to Honduras;
Yosef Livneh – Ambassador to Mexico and Non-Resident Ambassador to the Bahamas;
Tzuriel Rafael – Ambassador to El Salvador and Non-Resident Ambassador to Belize;
Nadav Tamir – Consul-General in Boston;
Rada Mansour – Consul-General in Atlanta; and
Roi Rosenblit – Chief of Mission in Qatar.

3. Pursuant to its authority under the 1959 Civil Service law (Appointments), the Cabinet appointed Nahum Itskovitz as Director-General of the Tourism Ministry.

4. Pursuant to its authority under the 1959 Civil Service law (Appointments), the Cabinet appointed Eli Cohen as Finance Ministry Director of Wages and Labor Agreements.

5. Pursuant to its authority under the relevant 1953 and 1968 laws, the Cabinet appointed Joseph Lapid as Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council.

6. The Cabinet approved the draft of the 2006 Plant Council Law.

7. The Cabinet discussed the draft 2006 Rabbinical Courts Law and transferred it to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation for further discussion.

8. The Cabinet decided to transfer the draft 2006 Political Parties Law (Primaries) to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation for further discussion.