(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 30 July 2006:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin, Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin and Israel Police Inspector-General Moshe Karadi briefed ministers on current diplomatic and security matters regarding the fighting in the north, including Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah’s recent remarks. GOC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon briefed ministers on his command’s activities in assisting residents of the north, including protecting structures and refurbishing public shelters.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks:

"I will brief ministers on US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice’s visit. This is her second visit in recent days and naturally, issues related to the war effort in the north were at the center of our talks.

I think that it must be clear that Israel is not rushing into a ceasefire before we reach a situation in which we can say that we have achieved the main goals that we set for ourselves, and this also requires the maturation of the diplomatic process and reaching a detailed agreement regarding the stationing of forces that will secure the areas from which Israel has been endangered during this period."

Prime Minister Olmert said that it must be clear that Hizbullah forces cannot be present in areas that threaten Israel’s security and asserted that the way to achieve this is, first and foremost, by the stationing of multi-national forces.

Foreign Minister Livni said that the outline of a diplomatic settlement is based on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions #1559 and #1680. She added that the international community is currently discussing the merits of an immediate ceasefire and those of a more effective ceasefire as a result of a diplomatic process. She recalled US President George Bush’s recent remarks in which he explicitly stated the need for an effective international force that operates on the basis of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which enables the use of force. It is expected to become clear ahead of the UN Security Council meeting, which nations are expected to participate in an international force. The Foreign Minister made it clear that international pressure for a ceasefire is a function of the humanitarian situation.

The Cabinet was informed of the tragic event in Qana during the aforesaid briefings.

Prime Minister Olmert expressed the entire State of Israel’s and the IDF’s deepest regret over the death of civilians in Qana and said that nothing is more foreign to the Israeli spirit, nothing is further from our thoughts and nothing contravenes our interests more than hurting civilians. He noted that all understand and know this. The Prime Minister said, "When we hit civilians – it is an exceptional occurrence that is not in our character. But those who are shooting at us shoot in order to kill civilians as the sole and exclusive goal of all their activity. We want to hit Hizbullah personnel and we will hit them; we do not – under any circumstances – want to hit civilians who are not part of terrorist activity. Therefore, the State of Israel deeply and sincerely regrets the killing of civilians during operations designed to halt firing that is intended to murder Israelis living in the north of the country."

Prime Minister Olmert said that it was no coincidence that the IDF was operating in Qana, which serves as a base for launching Katyushas against Israel and against residents of the north, including those in Kiryat Shemona and Afula. Qana is a base for launching missiles; it contained logistic depots, equipment warehouses and stores of rockets for use against Israeli citizens. Qana residents were duly warned and were asked to leave the village for this very reason because the goal was to strike at Hizbullah and not civilians, whom Hizbullah uses as human shields. The Prime Minister declared: "We express our readiness to cooperate with all elements that are engaged in providing humanitarian assistance." 

Regarding the continuation of fighting, Prime Minister Olmert said that there is no intention to ask the Cabinet to change the goals of the war and to reduce the action of the security forces in their effort to halt the Katyusha fire at the north. Israel will continue to act and – to the extent necessary – will expand activities in accordance with the decisions of the authorized bodies.

2. Ministers received detailed briefings on the special actions being taken by the various Government ministries and bodies in light of the situation on the home front in the north.

Prime Minister Olmert instructed ministers to appoint a senior official in their respective ministries to deal with resolving issues regarding the population in the north.  He further instructed that particularly difficult issues are to be personally resolved by the ministries’ directors-general.

3. The Cabinet discussed the issues of the payment of salaries in the north and the payment of compensation for indirect damages.

The Cabinet approved the 27 July 2006 agreement between the Government, the Histadrut labor federation and employers.

The Cabinet issued instructions regarding the draft 2006 Workers’ Protection During Emergencies Law and various other wage agreements and regulations.

The Cabinet authorized the Ministerial on Social and Economic Affairs to approve draft legislation on the payment of compensation for indirect damages in the spheres of tourism and agriculture.