(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly cabinet meeting today (Sunday, April 9, 2006):

1. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks at the start of the meeting:

"Today, we will submit for the cabinet’s approval the proposal to significantly increase the health basket. The issue of medicines in the health basket is not a coalition matter. This is human life and I had previously instructed the Health Ministry and the Finance Ministry Budget Division to find a way to increase the health basket so that we will be able to meet the special needs of a large population in the State of Israel that needs medicines, essential medicines for saving human lives. I hope that the proposal will be approved by the cabinet today, even with the restriction that the 2006 state budget has yet to be approved, and that there will be a very significant NIS 310 million increase in the health basket. I hope that this proposal, which enjoys the support of the Finance Ministry Budget Division, the Health Ministry, and the chairman of the Health Basket Committee, is indeed a proposal that will allow us to meet these needs appropriately. 

It is never possible to  accede absolutely to all applicants, to whatever is likely or liable to arise, but it seems to us that this is a worthy proposal. Herceptin will be included in the framework of this proposal and I hope that we are taking a significant and important step for the benefit of a large group of those who are ill in the State of Israel whom we want to help with all our hearts and to whom we are committed to providing the means with which they can recover.

I would like to thank all those who worked on the health basket issue, including Health Minister Yaacov Edry and Health Ministry Director-General Avi Israeli, who unceasingly fought for this issue; Health Basket Committee chairman Prof. Mordechai Shani, the former longtime director of the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, who devoted a great effort to this issue along with a large and multi-faceted group of  experts; and of course to Finance Ministry Budget Director Kobi Haber and his people, who cooperated fully in this great effort to find the correct answers so that we could provide a just and fair response to the large population in the State of Israel of those who are ill."

2. The cabinet discussed the deduction of Palestinian Authority (PA) debts due to various expenses and decided in continuation of its February 19, 2006 decision, that the deduction of funds – as per the order of the finance minister – from the amounts being transferred, as defined by Article 12 of the 1994 Law Implementing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area – Economic Arrangements and Various Directives, will not be viewed as the transfer of funds from Israel to the PA.

In its February 19, 2006 decision, it was determined – inter alia – that toward the conclusion of  the caretaker government in the PA a series of measures would be taken vis-à-vis the PA, including the non-transfer of funds from the Government of Israel to the PA.

In recent years, the finance minister has ordered that PA debts for the supply of electricity and water, the provision of hospital care for ill or injured Palestinians, etc., be deducted from the amounts transferred, in accordance with the 1994 Law Implementing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area – Economic Arrangements and Various Directives.

In order to allow Israeli bodies to continue to provide services, it was decided to amend the decision so that the deduction of funds from the amounts being transferred, as ordered by the finance minister, would not be viewed as the transfer of funds to the PA vis-à-vis the decision.

3. The cabinet, pursuant to its authority under the 1954 Bank of Israel Law, decided to reappoint the following persons to the Bank of Israel Advisory Committee, from October 27, 2005 to June 30, 2006: Chairman – Aharon Fogel, Vice Chairman – Yaacov Sheinan, Members – Mirena Jehshan, Yael Moritz, Galia Maor, Shlomo Nechama, Oded Tira, Aryeh Mintkevich, Yaacov Ne’eman and Uriel Lynn.

The cabinet also decided, pursuant to its authority under the 1954 Bank of Israel Law, to appoint the following persons to the Bank of Israel Advisory Council until June 30, 2006: Chairman – Aharon Fogel, Vice Chairman – Yaacov Sheinan, Members – Danny Rothschild, Esther Koren, Jackie Vakim, Michael Bleich, Yaacov Enod, Amnon Shaked, Tzipa Carmon, Margalit Yaniv, Hagit Hermesh, and Ilan Segev.

4. The cabinet decided to postpone until June 30, 2006 the date for rescinding the bonus grade given to retiring civil servants.

5. The cabinet decided to amend its previous decisions regarding assisting to communities in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip from 2004-2006, so that the following would be said in the relevant sections regarding Ministry of dustry, Trade, and Labor activity: "In tenders that will be issued on the subject, preference will be given to the establishment of new communications centers in the Greater Sderot area in accordance with  the criteria in the relevant cabinet decisions."

6. The cabinet discussed the completion of development at temporary residential sites for residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria and decided to allocate the necessary budgets as follows:

Shomriya – Completion of site fence, improvement of        residential structures via the Bnei Shimon  Regional Council;

Nitzan – Addition of a residential room to five temporary structures designated for large families and/or families with a handicapped member in accordance with Sela (Disengagement Authority)  approval;

Ein Tzurim – Projects including (inter alia) completion of development, upgrading of water system,  improvement and refurbishment of kibbutz structure for use as a kindergarten and daycare center for  residents of temporary residential site (budget to come from surplus in Ein Tzurim site public structure  budget);

Amatzia – Establishment of community offices and  kindergartens, widening of access road and  central square, transfer of fuel pump from present site (next to kindergarten), establishment of  playground;

Avnei Eitan – Development of lots and preparation of infrastructure for temporary residences for 16  eligible families from Netzer Hazani in accordance with Sela approval; purchase, transportation, and  infrastructure hook-up of 16 mobile structures; establishment of mobile daycare center and  synagogue.

Ashkelon – Advance detailed planning of infrastructure planning in Golef neighborhood.

7. The cabinet, pursuant to its authority under the 1989 Antiquities Authority Law, decided to approve Education, Culture, and Sports Minister Meir Shetrit’s decision to accept the Antiquities Authority board’s recommendation to re-appoint Yehoshua Dorfman as IAA director for another term.

8. The  cabinet adopted the recommendations of the team chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen regarding transportation safety projects.

9. The cabinet, pursuant to its authority under the 1965 Planning and Construction Law, approved a Kiryat Ata construction project.

10. Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Ze’ev Boim briefed ministers on damage suffered in the North due to the recent harshly inclement weather and said that a compensation proposal would be submitted to the cabinet upon the final assessment of the damage.

11. Foreign Minister and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni noted that Justice Ministry attorney Rachel Gershoni recently received a citation from US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones for the State of Israel’s efforts against human trafficking.  The minister added that Israel has been very active in both legislation and law enforcement on this issue.

12. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed ministers on current security matters and noted that there has been an increase in the firing of Kassam rockets, as well as an attempt to fire a Grad rocket, from the Gaza Strip. He said that he has instructed the security establishment to increase operations against terrorists in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria. He noted that in the last two days, rocket-launching cells, training areas, terrorists’ Gaza Strip offices, open urban areas used by terrorists, and launching areas and access routes in the northern Gaza Strip have been attacked.

Mofaz made it clear that the security establishment activity in the Gaza Strip is necessary to prevent an upsurge in Kassam rocket fire and the perpetrating of terrorist attacks.

He also discussed the situation in Judea and Samaria, preparations for Passover, the continued closure, and efforts against those persons who are in Israel illegally.

Acting Prime Minister Olmert said: "I would like to express appreciation for the security forces’ very successful activity over the weekend. I hear and read all kinds of assessments regarding what can and cannot prevent Kassam rocket fire. One thing must be clear – whoever fires Kassam rockets, whoever is engaged in terrorist activity, is a legitimate target and will be dealt with without hesitation by the security forces. There is no restriction on the security services regarding the carrying out of these actions wherever they identify the danger of terrorist activity."

Olmert expressed deep regret that in one of these actions a girl – who was in a vehicle along with terrorists who were ready for terrorist activity – was killed. He emphasized that the security establishment has very strict instructions to refrain from any action if there is concern that someone who is not the target might be hit.