(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly cabinet meeting today (Sunday, 22 January 2006):

1. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the new ministers for whom this was their first meeting – Health Minister and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Yaacov Edri, Housing and Construction Minister and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Zeev Boim, and National Infrastructures Minister and Science and Technology Minister Ronni Bar-On. The acting prime minister wished them success.

2. OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin, ISA Director Yuval Diskin, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed ministers on current security and diplomatic matters. They referred to the effort of the US-led forces to change the face of the Middle East by fostering democracy and fighting extremist Islam and terrorism and the counter-effort led by Iran, Syria and the global Jihad movement. They discussed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s recent speech to Arab jurists, the situation in Lebanon vis-à-vis Hizbullah and the Iranian-Syrian axis, and Palestinian affairs ahead of the upcoming elections, especially the close contest between Hamas and Fatah.

Defense Minister Mofaz said that, against the background of the Palestinian Authority (PA) legislative elections, there were also warnings regarding attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks. He estimated that there will be additional attempts to perpetrate attacks similar to that carried out last week by Islamic Jihad at the old central bus station area in Tel Aviv. He said that the attack in Tel Aviv was perpetrated against the background of the Damascus meeting between the presidents of Iran and Syria, which underscored the link between Iran’s financing, guidance and ideology and those elements in Damascus which are sponsoring and encouraging the perpetration of terrorist attacks against Israel. The money came from Iran, the instructions came from Damascus, and the terrorist came from the Nablus area.

Mofaz said that Iran is transferring considerable funds to Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, with the terrorist organizations in Judea and Samaria demanding their share for each terrorist attack. Syria continues to be under increasing US pressure in order to implement UN Security Council Resolution #1559 regarding the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon so as to enable the Lebanese army to deploy its forces in the south, regarding the withdrawal of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon, and regarding the disbanding of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad command centers in Damascus. Damascus is still under the heavy shadow of the inquiry into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni discussed the upcoming PA elections and recalled the international community’s long-standing demand that the Palestinians – in accordance with both the Roadmap and the Palestinians’ own commitments – undergo a process of democratization including not only elections but the need to carry our reforms and disarm the terrorist organizations. In practice, this has not happened. The foreign minister said that after the PA elections two international forums are due to discuss their results. The Quartet is expected to meet on January 30 as are the European Union foreign ministers. She noted that the international community has dispatched observers to the elections and added that the Foreign Ministry is working with them.

Regarding the Iranian issue, Livni said that a special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors is due to convene in Vienna on 2 February 2006 following the recent Iranian decision to remove the seals at uranium enrichment sites. Israel emphasizes that this is not an Israeli problem but a global problem.

Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra briefed ministers on last week’s events in Wadi Ara.

3. Pursuant to its authority under the 1958 Engineers and Architects Law, the cabinet appointed Ayalon Bernhard and Shamai Asif to the Engineering and Architecture Council.

4. Pursuant to its authority under the 1965 Israel Broadcasting Authority Law, the cabinet appointed Israel Broadcasting Authority plenum member Gabriela Shalev as Deputy IBA Chairwoman for six months.

5. The cabinet decided to reject the finance minister’s appeal against the decision by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve certain amendments to Israeli lands legislation.

6. The cabinet decided to establish a ministerial committee to discuss graves that are uncovered during infrastructure work or archeological excavations. Transportation and Education, Culture, and Sports Minister Meir Sheetrit will chair the committee; ministers Boim, Edri, and Ezra will also be members. Deputy Minister Ruhama Avraham and representatives of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and Chief Rabbis Yonah Metzger and Shlomo Amar will attend committee meetings.