(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 5 November 2006:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks: “For the last few days IDF forces have been operating in the Gaza Strip, primarily in the Beit Hanoun area. The aim of this action is to diminish Kassam attacks on southern Israel and to halt terrorist actions and attempted actions against Israel.

Those Palestinians who have been wounded were mostly armed, but, to our regret, they are using innocent people as human shields, resulting in the injury of uninvolved civilians as well. The instructions given to IDF forces are to make the utmost effort to act carefully and with sensitivity to avoid unessential damage and to avoid harming the lives of those not involved in terrorist operations. The main strikes are against Islamic Jihad and Hamas infrastructures and armed personnel, who are constantly trying to perpetrate terrorist attacks. We have informed the world that we do not intend to countenance continued Kassam rocket barrages against Sderot and other surrounding Israeli communities. We will take the necessary measures to significantly diminish them and prevent terrorist operations. Thus we have said, thus we are doing and thus we will continue to do.

This operation is naturally limited in time, but we have no intention of revealing when we will end it. When we conclude that the desired effects of the operation have been achieved and we are nearer to our goals, we will – of course – withdraw our forces from the Gaza Strip. We have no intention of either remaining in, or occupying, Gaza. But we do intend to put a halt to terrorism from Gaza and we will continue until our goals have been achieved.”

2. Defense Minister Amir Peretz briefed ministers on IDF activity in the Gaza Strip and said that since 31 October 2006, the IDF had been acting in the Beit Hanun district in order to arrest terrorists and strike at the infrastructures behind the firing of missiles at Israel. Last Friday, the IDF took control of the Beit Hanun district, including the kasbah, and begin to carry out arrests, locate stores of war materiel and strike at armed persons. It seems that the terrorists in Beit Hanun were surprised by the scope and strength of the IDF action even though there was considerable opposition to our forces at the outset. Terrorist activity has decreased over time. Since the beginning of the operation, there have been approximately 20 incidents in which missiles were fired, with about 60 hits.

Defense Minister Peretz made it clear that as long as the Palestinian Authority does not take responsibility for what happens on its territory and operates against extremist elements, Israel will undertake operational-aggressive measures wherever the use of force is necessary in order to counter and fight terrorism. Israel will not allow Hamas and the other terrorist organizations to gain strength and engage in terrorism, and will do its utmost to prevent attacks on civilians and communities in the greater Gaza Strip area. The Beit Hanun district had become a center from which missiles were fired at Israeli territory and Israel had no choice but to deal with the terrorist infrastructure there.

Defense Minister Peretz stressed that while Israel has no intention of being dragged into a broad move to occupy the Gaza Strip, it will continue carrying out localized operations to both reduce the terrorist threat and improve the security of Israeli citizens, especially in the greater Gaza Strip area.

Defense Minister Peretz also discussed the Philadelphia corridor, the situation in Judea and Samaria, Israeli humanitarian assistance, the situation in the north, the Iranian issue and his meeting last Friday with German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung to whom he stressed the need to prevent smuggling from Syria into Lebanon.

3. The Cabinet transferred overall responsibility for dealing with the Bedouin sector in the Negev to Construction and Housing Minister Meir Shetrit; the unit for coordination, implementation, monitoring and oversight of Government activity in the Bedouin sector in the Negev will be transferred to the Construction and Housing Ministry from the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry. The Cabinet also directed Construction and Housing Minister Shetrit to coordinate with Finance Minister Hirchson and Attorney General Meni Mazuz and to submit, within 90 days, a detailed plan for establishing a unit within his Ministry to unify Government activity regarding the Bedouin sector in the Negev. The foregoing will not affect the statutory authorities of the Israel Lands Administration.

4. The Cabinet adopted a variety of measures to encourage industry and employment in the non-Jewish sector.

5. The Cabinet decided to establish a National Water Safety Authority.

6. The Cabinet approved the appointment of attorney Yoram Hacohen as Director of the Legal Authority for Information Technologies and Privacy Protection and as the Registrar of Databases.

7. Pursuant to the 1958 Council on Higher Education Law, the Cabinet decided to recommend that President Moshe Katsav appoint Israel Student Association Chairwoman Eti Sonneschein to the Council on Higher Education.

8. The Cabinet decided that that Construction and Housing Ministry would carry out a series of development projects regarding the planned Halutzit 1 and Halutzit 4 communities.

9.  National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer discussed the recent controversy over the transport of an Israel Electric Corp.
transformer on the Sabbath.

10. Defense Minister Peretz referred to recent remarks by Minister Avigdor Lieberman regarding the Arab sector and said that the latter’s remarks were unacceptable. Minister Peretz said that all ministers were obliged not to make statements that could lead to unnecessary unrest and confrontations.

Prime Minister Olmert said that Minister Lieberman’s remarks reflected the latter’s personal views and not the Prime Minister’s. Minister Lieberman did not express the Government’s views. The Prime Minister said: “I have made it clear to Avigdor Lieberman and he knows this – we favor full equal rights for the Arabs of the State of Israel. I want it to be clear. I have never hid this. I am a great believer in full equal rights for Israeli Arabs in the State of Israel and as long as I am Prime minister, this will be the Government’s policy. Avigdor Lieberman and I sharply disagree on this issue but the Government is bound by its agreed-upon policy.” Minister Lieberman said that while he supports full equal rights for Israeli Arabs, he supports equal obligations as well.

11. Minister Lieberman will be a member of the following ministerial
committees: the Ministerial Legislative and Law Enforcement Committee, the Ministerial Committee on Immigrant Absorption, the Ministerial Committee on Coordination between the Government and the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency, the Ministerial Committee on Unauthorized Outposts (the Talia Sasson report) and the Ministerial Committee on Road Safety.

12. Education Minister Yuli Tamir will serve as Acting Science, Culture and Sports Minister.

13. Tourism Minister Yitzhak Herzog will replace former Minister Ophir Pines-Paz as a member of the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs.