(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly cabinet meeting today (Sunday, 21 May 2006):

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert paid tribute to the late Yitzhak Ben-Aharon.

2. Prime Minister Olmert referred to the strike by intestinal cancer patients, who are demanding that certain drugs be included in the health basket. He said that, following consultations with Health Minister Yaacov Ben-Yizri, Minister of Pensioner Affairs Rafi Eitan, and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, he spoke this morning with the requisite officials and asked that the health basket committee urgently reconvene in order to reconsider the issue and allow the cabinet to make decisions that will allow lives to be prolonged and saved. He noted that while the cabinet cannot set professional-clinical priorities for the committee and its expert members, "we are very sensitive to these patients’ suffering. Their appeals are heart-rending and we will act according to the recommendations of the specially appointed professional committee. I hope that these patients will stop their strike, which certainly does not make their health situation any better, and return home, and receive the best possible treatment." I hope that we will be able to make decisions on these issues soon."

Prime Minister Olmert thanked Minister Eitan for his recent efforts on the matter, including the generous good will of the Ofer family and the Ofer Foundation on the issue, the assistance of which he said cannot come in place of the state’s obligations.

3. Representatives of various regional authorities, in cooperation with Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, ahead of Jerusalem Day (this Friday, 26 May 2006, which is also the day on which Israel’s rural communities salute Jerusalem) and the Shavuot holiday (Friday, 2 June 2006), presented ministers with the traditional first fruits.  Prime Minister Olmert said that this was an opportunity to bless Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem.

4. Defense Minister Peretz briefed ministers on the security events of the past week – including the increased Kassam and Grad rocket fire from the Gaza Strip – and the increasing confrontation between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Fatah, and Hamas. He also discussed the security forces’ counterterrorist efforts, both vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria, as well as the continued easing of restrictions on the Palestinian civilian population.

5. The cabinet discussed the provision of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population in the form of medical assistance, and decided – in keeping with its previous decisions and in order to allow humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population – as follows:

  • To transfer to international aid organizations, as determined by Defense Minister Peretz in coordination with Prime Minister Olmert, NIS 50 million worth of medicines and medical equipment, to be financed by the funds which it has been decided not to transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA), for transfer in turn to Palestinian medical institutions.  he medicines and equipment will be transferred after coordination with the aforesaid medical institutions via the chosen international aid organizations.
  • The cabinet also decided to authorize the Defense Ministry to contact the international aid organizations in order to implement the foregoing.

At its 19 February 2006 meeting, the cabinet decided that, "Towards the conclusion of the caretaker government, money will not be transferred from Israel to the Palestinian Authority." At its 11 April 2006 meeting, the cabinet decided that, "The Palestinian Authority is a terrorist authority that is hostile to Israel; the State of Israel, and all of its official representatives, will not maintain ties with the Palestinian Authority and its elements… Israel will coordinate with the international community regarding humanitarian assistance for the needs of the Palestinian population, not via the Palestinian Authority establishment." 

In light of existing humanitarian needs regarding medicines and medical equipment at PA medical institutions, the cabinet decided as per the foregoing. 

Prime Minister Olmert said: "The State of Israel feels bound – above and beyond its formal obligations – to see to humanitarian concerns, and to the health of those who are ill anywhere. We cannot, under any circumstances, bear the thought of a sick child without medical assistance, solely because of a shortage of drugs, and this has nothing to do with any kind of formal obligation. This is a moral and fundamentally Jewish concern that we want to uphold. We have no intention of helping the Palestinian government, we will not transfer so much as a penny to any Palestinian official, but I say, we will render such assistance as may be necessary for humanitarian needs. This is, has been, and will be, the way of the State of Israel."

6. The cabinet decided to allocate NIS 500 million to the Disengagement Authority (Sela) in order to expand temporary structures – via the Construction and Housing Ministry – designated as residential quarters for special-needs families. This sum is in accordance with Disengagement Authority estimates, in response to applications from families having special needs such as disability and limited mobility, social situation, overcrowding, etc.

7. The cabinet appointed the following ministerial committees:

a. Ministerial Committee Regarding Unauthorized Outposts;
b. Ministerial State Control Committee;
c. Ministerial Committee on Advancing the Status of Women in Israeli Society;
d. Ministerial Committee on Intellectual Property;
e. Ministerial Committee on Road Safety; and
f. Ministerial Committee on Regional Economic Development.

8. Pursuant to the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the cabinet appointed Aaron Abramovich as Foreign Ministry director-general, replacing Ron Prosor, effective 4 June 2006.

9. The cabinet discussed human trafficking and decided to establish a permanent directors-general committee to oversee coordination of the struggle against human trafficking in the spheres of law enforcement, victims’ rights, and the preparation of preventive plans. The Justice Ministry director-general will chair the committee; its other members will include the directors-general of the Internal Security; Social Welfare; Interior; Industry, Trade, and Labor; Health; and Foreign ministries and the Israel Police inspector-general (or their senior representatives). A senior Justice Ministry official will be appointed as interministerial coordinator and will oversee – inter alia – both intra-government coordination and coordination with NGOs.

It should be noted that the 2001 US State Department report to Congress on human trafficking ranked Israel in the lowest rank.  In the 2002-2005 reports, Israel was in the intermediate rank.

The State of Israel will do its utmost, and will use all means at its disposal, in the struggle against human trafficking.

10. The cabinet noted that Prime Minister Olmert will leave for the US today in order to meet with US President George Bush as well as with senior government and Jewish community officials.