(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 26 March 2006:

1. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s made the following remarks:

“This morning, we are holding the last Cabinet meeting before Tuesday’s elections. This will be the last meeting of the Government that Ariel Sharon led for the past five years. Even as we are on the threshold of new elections and the subsequent formation of a new Government, there is no doubt that the spirit and path of Ariel Sharon will continue to an important component in the public and diplomatic affairs of the State of Israel for years to come.

Elections for the 17th Knesset will be held in two days. I call on all Israeli citizens to realize their right to participate in the elections and to vote.  There is no more appropriate and significant expression of civil rights than of voting and thus determining the fate of the country and the composition of its government. Therefore, I call on all Israeli citizens to vote.”

2. Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Ze’ev Boim, Health Minister Ya’akov Edery, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Yossi Yishai, Health Ministry Director-General Avi Yisraeli and Defense Ministry Deputy Director-General Victor Bar-Gil briefed ministers on the Government’s response to the bird flu issue. The flu broke out in three waves. The first wave was on 16 March 2006 at Hulit, Ein Hashelosha, Nahshon and Sde Moshe; 714,000 birds, including 118,000 that were infected, were culled. The second wave was on 19 March 2006 at Nur Oz and Amioz; 470,000 birds, including 180,000 that were infected, were culled. The third wave was on 23 March 2006 at Bekaot; 16,000 birds were culled.  The total cost of the culled birds was NIS 21 million.

Health Minister Edery and Health Ministry Director-General Yisraeli briefed ministers on contacts with the Palestinians, in the framework of which preventive medicines and information on the treatment of bird flu were sent to them.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert thanked all those who struggled against bird flu and emphasized that there had been an impressive effort to control and contain it in order to prevent it from spreading. All elements acted properly and bird flu must continue to be dealt with responsibly and with due consideration.

3. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, in his capacity as Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Struggle Against Violence, briefed ministers on the Committee’s work.

Deputy Attorney-General Livnat Mashiach briefed ministers on the status of legislation related to the need to struggle against violence.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert discussed the needs both to devote greater resources to the struggle against violence and to change the priorities of the law enforcement authorities. To these ends, he discussed the need to fashion new policies, including among educational institutions and said (inter alia): “The State of Israel cannot absorb such violence and such victims. It invests super-human resources, unlike any other country in the world, in order to defend itself against external violence, against various murderers and terrorists who try to infiltrate into the country in order to hurt us, and it shows in this struggle extraordinary resourcefulness and ability in coordinating all agencies, capabilities and technologies to achieve results. And on the other hand, it daily faces internal violence, including murder, which can be prevented if we utilize our strength and our forces.”

4. Ministers discussed extending the validity of the State of Emergency pursuant to Article 39 of Basic Law: The Government and decided to propose that the Knesset – in accordance with Article 133 of the Knesset bylaws – declare a State of Emergency for one year; this is in continuation of the Knesset’s 30 May 2005 decision to declare a State of Emergency from 14 June 2005 to 13 June 2006, and is due to the current security-diplomatic situation in the country. A series of essential laws (including – inter alia – the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance –  that confer important authority to deal with the prevailing security situation depend on the extension of the State of Emergency. Security officials reported that during 2005-2006, considerable use was made of the authority anchored in the emergency laws to – inter alia – construct the security fence. It was also reported that between 2003-2006, considerable use was also made of the authority conferred under the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance.

The Justice Ministry is currently coordinating interministerial staff work on reconsidering legislation affected by the State of Emergency, and has been requested by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and Law, Constitution and Justice Committee to submit a plan for severing legislation from the State of Emergency.