(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday (Sunday), 23 July 2006:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks at the start of the
meeting: “First, I would like to send condolences on behalf of the Government of Israel to the families of those who have been killed and best wishes for a full recovery to the wounded.

Today, the heart of the entire State of Israel is with the IDF forces, on land, sea and air, which are continuing to risk their lives in order to strike at the terrorists, those who seek our lives, in order to realize our right to live normal lives in all parts of the State of Israel, like every other people seeks for itself in its country.

In order for us to maintain normal lives as much as possible, even today, we must act to assist, especially the population in areas in which daily life has been disrupted as a result of the recurrent attacks by Hizbullah in the north and the Palestinian terrorist organizations in the south. We will discuss several steps and measures that the government will take to assist residents so that they will be able to maintain normal life as much as possible.

Again, I must express my amazement at the willingness of all sections of the public, even those in the line of fire, to assist residents of the north. Such displays of mutual responsibility and partnership are deeply appreciated both by the public and by the government.”

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin, Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin, GOC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon and Israel Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi briefed ministers on Operation Summer Rains in the south and Operation Change of Direction in the north, including both intelligence and operational issues, the home front situation, etc.

IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky briefed ministers on the operational activities of the IDF and the other security services in Judea and Samaria, in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon.  Both he and Defense Minister Peretz emphasized that the fighting was being carried out within the framework of the goals and parameters set by the government.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed ministers on diplomatic issues related to the fighting in the north.

Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson and Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On briefed ministers on their respective ministries’ preparations to render assistance to those who have been affected by the fighting in the north, including wages to workers in those northern areas under Katyusha attack and aid to these areas by the Interior Ministry.

2. The Cabinet approved the draft 2006 Workers’ Rights During Emergencies Law and requested that the Knesset House Committee expedite debate over it and approve holding its first and second readings on the day that it is tabled in the Knesset. The draft law is mainly designed to prevent the dismissal of workers due to absence from work as a result of the security situation and similar infringements of seniority-based rights.

3. The Cabinet decided:

* To budget NIS 26,150,000 to the SELA Disengagement Authority for social assistance for residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria who were evacuated in the framework of the implementation of the Disengagement plan. The budget is designed for assistance activities that will be carried out by the end of 2006;

* NIS 8 million (the amount is not final) of the foregoing sum will be transferred to those local authorities that absorbed residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, in accordance with the criteria set forth in the 19 March 2006 Cabinet Communique.

4. The Cabinet discussed the promotion of employment among Gaza Strip and northern Samaria evacuees and decided – inter alia – to instruct the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry to operate an additional plan to offer incentives to employers to employ workers from among the evacuees; to instruct the Employment Service to advance the payment of retraining grants; and to instruct the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry to pay subsidies for Sept-Nov 2006 for mothers among the evacuees whose children are in daycare centers, according various criteria.

5. The Cabinet discussed the issue of coordinating Government activities regarding the establishment of permanent settlement blocs in the eastern Lachish, Halutza, Nitzanim and Nahal Sorek Regional Council areas. The Cabinet decided to establish a committee chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ra’anan Dinur, and with the participation of the Construction and Housing Ministry Director-General Aryeh Bar and of the SELA Disengagement Authority, to coordinate the activities of a directors-general committee, a steering committee and committees to oversee the actual establishment of each of the four aforementioned settlement blocs in accordance with – inter alia – Article 85 of the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Law.

6. Pursuant to its authority under the 1959 Civil Service Law, the Cabinet appointed Finance Ministry Director-General Yossi Bachar, Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Dinur and Construction and Housing Ministry Director-General Bar as members of the Civil Service Commission.

7. The Cabinet decided to extend the tenure of Health Ministry National Health Insurance Law Public Complaints Commissioner Dr. Karni Jabotinsky Rubin until the end of the year.

8. The Cabinet discussed the status of the assets of Ashdod Oil Refineries.