(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 12 February 2006:

1. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks: "We are encouraged by the reports from Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital on the state of the Prime Minister’s health following his operation yesterday.  The entire Government embraces Omri and Gilad who are sitting at their father’s bedside day and night.  We pray that the next stage will see Prime Minister Sharon gradually succeed in recovering."

2. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed ministers on current security and diplomatic issues.

Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the security establishment’s impressive counterterrorist actions against a surging wave of terrorism and noted that approximately 10 such actions were carried out last week against plans to perpetrate acts of terrorism, including a suicide attack, rocket attacks and the interception of leading terrorists. He emphasized that there are currently seven warnings of serious attacks and approximately 50 attacks in various stages of planning. The Defense Minister said that the characteristics of the future Palestinian Authority (PA) administration will be formulated in the coming week. 

The new Palestinian Legislative Council is due to be sworn in on 18 February 2006; its new Speaker – from Hamas – will also be chosen. PA Chairman Abu Mazen is then expected to charge Hamas with forming a government. This marks the start of the countdown toward the establishment of the new government and the possibility that PA Chairman Abu Mazen will want to transfer responsibility for part of the security services to Hamas; the significance of this is that PA Chairman Abu Mazen’s commitment to deal with the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructures and move towards implementing the Roadmap will not be implemented by him, such matters will then become the responsibility of Hamas. For its part, Hamas is continuing to try to craft a complex and unclear policy characterized by pragmatic statements regarding – inter alia – a ‘long-term hudna’. However, senior Hamas officials note that the movement has no intention of abandoning ‘the framework of opposition’ and of recognizing Israel.

Defense Minister Mofaz briefed ministers on his participation at the recent NATO Defense Ministers’ conference in Sicily and his meetings with his NATO counterparts, including US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

In his meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Defense Minister Mofaz noted Israel’s complete objections to holding a dialogue of any kind with Hamas as long as it has not met a series of conditions including recognizing Israel, renouncing terrorism, adopting the Roadmap and accepting all agreements that have been achieved with Israel. Most NATO Defense Ministers, and NATO Secy.-Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressed support for this policy.

The Russians explained that their invitation to Hamas to visit Moscow is designed to pressure them via direct dialogue and not via public statements. The Israeli position was made very clear and the Russians took this into account. In his meetings, Defense Minister Mofaz also raised the Iranian issue and the expansion of Israeli-NATO cooperation.

Defense Minister Mofaz discussed the situation on the northern border.

Foreign Minister Livni discussed her recent trip to the US including her meetings with US President George Bush, US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, senior administration officials and members of Congress, UN Secy.-Gen. Kofi Annan and the UN ambassadors of the UN Security Council member countries, US Jewish community leaders and with the media.

The main issue in her talks was Hamas. The Americans stated that Hamas is on their list of terrorist organizations and emphasized the need for the international community to uphold the conditions being demanded of any future Palestinian government. The Americans also expressed their reservations over the Russian invitation to Hamas leaders; the need was stressed for PA Chairman Abu Mazen to demand that any future government meet the aforesaid condition. Foreign Minister Livni said that as long as there is no new PA government, Israel will continue to assist the PA; however, if Hamas forms the future government and does not meet the aforementioned conditions, the PA will have become a terrorist entity. 

In her talks, the Foreign Minister also raised the issues of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. It was emphasized that the US administration is determined to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and to expedite the Iranian issue in the UN Security Council. Members of the US Congress, from both parties, expressed unreserved support for Israel’s security and expressed the desire to initiate legislation to ban assistance to any future PA government that does not meet the criteria set by the international community.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert summarized the foregoing discussion as follows:

A. Regarding current security activity, last week was an exceptional week for successful and precise counter-terrorist actions with impressive results.  Defense Minister Mofaz will oversee such activities, which one cannot help but esteem highly.

B. Regarding Hamas, as soon as the PA Legislative Council is sworn in, the PA will become a Hamas Authority; it is unimportant if it is a government of technocrats or ministers are formal Hamas members. Even a government of technocrats can be chosen only if a Legislative Council majority votes confidence in it and the moment that the majority is a Hamas majority, this is a government which relies on Hamas support; and as soon as the PA becomes a Hamas Authority the rules of the game will change because the Legislative Council Speaker will also be from Hamas, and he is the deputy chairman of the PA. This has been made clear to the international community and it is well known that no other position can be expected of Israel.  Israel has said that there will be no change in its position regarding the need to meet the three terms that we have defined, and we have expressed this position in recent days.  The international community accepts the terms; the Russian position is mistaken despite their statements that they are not withdrawing from the three principles.

C. On the Iranian issue, there has recently been a development favorable to Israel. However, this is the beginning of a process.  It is important that it be made clear that conditions are ripe for the intervention – for the first time – by the UN Security Council, which the Iranians are trying to prevent.

D. There are no magic formulas for anything.  We must be sagacious and patient.  We will not let up on the Hamas issue or on the issue of terrorism. We will use counter-terrorist measures when necessary to thwart acts of terrorism – everything in keeping with circumstances, without statements, without dramatic threats and without sweeping commitments.

3. The Cabinet discussed the issue of reforms in mental health services.

4. The Cabinet, pursuant to its authority under Article 18 of Basic Law: The President, approved President Moshe Katsav’s departure on a state visit to Greece from 13-17 February 2006.