(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting (Sunday), 3 August 2008:

A. The Cabinet discussed preparations for a prisoner release to complete the prisoner exchange deal.  The Cabinet approved the following:

  1. In accordance with Art.1(d) of Decision 3690, 29 June 2008, in the matter of approval of the draft deal to return abducted soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah in July 2006, the Cabinet will recommend before the authorized bodies the release of five Palestinian prisoners who meet the criteria approved in Cabinet Decision 468, 6 July 2003 and Cabinet Decision 606, 27 July 2003.
  2. The Cabinet notes the announcement of Justice Ministry Dir.-Gen. and the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for the Release of Palestinian Prisoners, that these prisoners were checked by the Committee and found to meet the criteria determined by Decisions 468 and 606.
  3. The exact time of the release will be as soon as possible and will be determined by Justice Minister Dir.-Gen. Moshe Shela with the knowledge of the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, Maj.-Gen. Meir Kalifi.
  4. The IDF will be ssigned responsibility, with the assistance of the Israel Prisoner Authority, the ISA and the Ministry of Justice, for the process of the actual prisoner release and dispersal;
  5. The preparation process will include publication of names of candidates for release on the Israel Prisoner Authority web site;
  6. The Prime Minister instructs that a prisoner who refuses to sign the "commitment form" will not be released.  In Cabinet Decision 3690, it was determined that, upon completion of the deal for the return of abducted soldiers, Palestinian prisoners will be released, and that their number and identity will be determined at the sole consideration of the Government. In accordance with this, the Government approved the release of five Palestinian prisoners.

B. The Cabinet approved the ID, Travel Document and Biometric Data Base Draft Law, 2008, and authorized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to approve, according to its own judgment, the final wording and bring it before the Knesset.

C. The Cabinet also decided to transfer the Foreign Workers Unit from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to the Interior Ministry – the Immigration and Border Crossings Authority.

D. The Cabinet approved the following changes in the framework of the 2008 budget:

  1. To redefine priorities within the budget, allocating NIS 750 million for budgetary obligations deriving from legislation, Cabinet decisions, wage agreements and decisions of the High Court of Justice.
  2. To cut the base ministerial budget by 6%, as detailed in the given table. The reduction will be carried out despite previous Cabinet decisions and, accordingly, will apply also to allocations budgeted for the said decisions.
  3. Notwithstanding Art. 2, no reduction will be made in budgets that implement laws in which amounts or percents of the budget are defined for their implementation, or in articles of the budget which fulfill contractual obligations.
  4. To release NIS 314 million from budgetary reserves.
  5. Pursuant to the aforementioned article – to assign responsibility to the Minister of Welfare and Social Services, Yitzhak Herzog, and Minister of Finance, Ronnie Bar-On, to instruct the National Insurance Institute, in their authority under Art. 24(a) Foundations of the Budget Law 1985, to reduce by NIS 14 million the base administrative budget for 2008.
  6. To assign responsibility to Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On to approach the Speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzak, and the State Comptroller, Justice Micha Lindenstrauss,  to act to reduce their 2008 office budgets, and this in relation to the said rate of reduction in the afore mentioned Art. 2, according to their discretion.

E. Pursuant to Article 21 of the 1959 Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Cabinet approved the appointment of Mr. Avigdor Ohana, Acting Dir.-Gen. for the Ministry of Religious Services, to the position of Dir.-Gen. of that Ministry.  The appointment will come into effect 3 August 2008.

Also on today’s agenda is the need to implement a 6% across-the-board ministerial budget cut, excluding the Ministries of Defense and Education. We have created commitments throughout the year which were not part of the initially approved budgetary framework. We are convinced that we cannot enlarge the budget, but rather must define priorities and remain within the approved budgetary framework. This is the right thing to do and is one of the reasons that Israel’s economy has remained stable and maintained a rate of growth which other economies have not been able to attain.

Only this week we adopted the Dorner Commission recommendations in the matter of Holocaust survivors. It is impossible to expand the budget and expect that the money will come from some source that is not part of the Government outlays. And so it is regarding the addition of 1,000 policemen.  We decided, on my instructions, at the request of Minister of Internal Security Avi Dicter, and in coordination with Finance Minister Ronni Bar-On, to add 1,000 policemen to the force. This is a large expenditure for which somehow we must find the funding. I hope that the Government will demonstrate the necessary responsibility and allow these cuts."