(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the cabinet meeting in special session today (Tuesday, 11 April 2006):

1. The cabinet discussed the decision that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will serve as interim prime minister until the establishment of the new government, this upon the conclusion of 100 days since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon became unable to discharge the duties of his office.

Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon made the following remarks:

"On the night of 4 January 2006, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed to hospital suffering from severe bleeding in his brain.

"A few minutes after Prime Minister Sharon arrived at the hospital, due to his severe condition, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, and I held a telephone conversation in which it was decided that Prime Minister Sharon’s powers would be transferred to Acting Prime Minister Olmert.

"This Friday, 14 April 2006, will be the 100th day in which Prime Minister Sharon has been unable to discharge the duties of his office. Pursuant to Basic Law: The Government, after 100 days the government must appoint a minister from Prime Minister Sharon’s faction to serve as interim prime minister until the formation of a new government.

"The proposal before you is that Kadima Chairman Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert serve as interim prime minister.

"We convened the cabinet in special session today, the last day on which the cabinet could meet before Friday, 14 April 2006. The decision accepted today will take effect on Friday, 14 April 2006, at midnight, should Prime Minister Sharon’s condition remain unchanged.

"This is a difficult and sad day for all of us – the aides who worked alongside Prime Minister Sharon, in his bureau, in the cabinet secretariat, and in the entire Prime Minister’s Office, as it is – of course – for the members of Prime Minister Sharon’s family and for his friends. We did not think that we would reach this moment.  We pray that Prime Minister Sharon recovers and send our best wishes to his family and friends."

The cabinet decided as follows:

Since 100 days will have passed by Friday, 14 April 2006 (inclusive) since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon became unable to discharge the duties of his office, it is determined that pursuant to Article 30(c) of Basic Law: The Government, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will serve as interim prime minister until the new government is established.

This decision will take effect on the aforementioned date should Prime Minister Sharon’s condition remain unchanged.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks:

"Thank you very much; I thank the members of the cabinet for their vote and for their trust.  The 100-day period, which will end this Friday, 14 April 2006, and which began on the night of 4 January 2006, stems – first and foremost – from the state of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s health and also from the provisions of the law that stipulate this time frame, in which an acting prime minister carries out his duties according to law.

"I very much hope that today’s decision will be in force for a very short time only. Since President Moshe Katsav asked me to form a new government, we have been making efforts to establish that government and I very much hope that, despite the holidays , we will succeed in completing this work as soon as possible and that we will submit the new government to a vote of confidence in the Knesset very soon.

"I again thank the members of the cabinet. Of course, we will continue to carry out our duties and responsibilities in these circumstances and will endeavor to do our best to faithfully serve the State of Israel."

2. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wished everyone a Happy Passover: "At this time, I would like to wish a Happy Passover to all members of the cabinet and their families, and to the wonderful team of employees, aides, assistants and secretaries, first and foremost to Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon.

A Happy Passover to the Sharon family and to the entire Jewish people. May we and our families have a quiet and peaceful holiday, as we all deserve."

3. The cabinet discussed policy regarding the Palestinian Authority following the swearing-in of the Hamas government. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, and GOC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin were among those who presented their views on the issue and on the problems facing the PA and the Hamas government.

The cabinet decided as follows:

Following the Palestinian Authority elections and the subsequent 25 March 2006 swearing-in of the Hamas government, a government which recognizes neither the existence of the State of Israel nor the agreements that have been signed with it and which has not disavowed the path of terrorism:

A. The Palestinian Authority is a terrorist authority that is hostile to Israel;

B. The State of Israel, and all of its official representatives, will not hold ties with the Palestinian Authority and its elements.

C. The Palestinian Authority is one authority; therefore, neither the Palestinian Authority chairman nor his office will be treated any differently.  However, there will be no personal disavowal of the Palestinian Authority chairman.

D. Foreign officials who are visiting the region and who meet with Hamas elements will not be received, during the same visit, for meetings with Israeli officials.

E. Israel will coordinate with the international community regarding humanitarian assistance for the needs of the Palestinian population, not via the Palestinian Authority establishment.

F. Subject to security considerations, the Gaza Strip crossings will be open in order to allow the entry of humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip.