(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 28 September 2008:

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks:

"Late last Wednesday night, a bomb was planted that lightly wounded one of Israel’s foremost scientists, Israel Prize laureate Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell.  Prof. Sternhell is well known  for his sharp and uncompromising political beliefs.

"The attempt to kill Prof. Sternhell joins several similar incidents – such as the violent assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin 13 years ago –  perpetrated by a certain group of individuals.  It is impossible not to see a link between these events which have occurred over the years and the attack on Prof. Sternhell who, fortunately, was only wounded.

"An evil wind of extremism, hatred, malice, violence, law-breaking, and contempt for the institutions of the state is blowing through certain sections of the Israeli public. It threatens Israeli democracy, compromising the ability of those entrusted by the State of Israel to make decisions and the ability to freely express one’s views without fear of being attacked by wild, violent law-breakers, who disregard all frameworks of proper, democratic life.  The security services have been instructed to deal with this instance, to investigate it, and to act with the greatest possible speed in order to bring those responsible to justice, so that they might be punished for this awful thing that they have done.  On behalf of the Government, I send wishes for a quick recovery to Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell and wish him long life with his family, friends and the entire Jewish People in the New Year.  He should not fear to express his views and his positions which he believes in, whether people agree with him or not."

2. The Deputy Director of the Israel Security Agency briefed ministers on current security matters.

3. Central Bureau of Statistics Chief Statistician Prof. Shlomo Yitzhaki briefed ministers on the recently released Statistical Abstract of Israel for 2008 and presented various key figures. 

In commenting on Prof. Yitzhaki’s remarks, Prime Minister Olmert said: "I would like to inform you that the population of the State of Israel numbers approximately 7,337,000 citizens, of which 5,542,000 are Jews.  A majority of the rest is Arabs and the remainder are Druze and Circassians.  Ours is a very young population, one of the youngest in the world.  28.4% of Israelis are 14 and under, in comparison to an average of 17% in other western countries.  9.8% of Israelis are 65 and over, as compared to almost 15% in other countries.  The number of children in Israel continued to increase in 2007 and now numbers 3.8 million.  151,679 children were born in the State of Israel in 2007, a 2.4% increase over 2006.  18,129 immigrants came to Israel in 2007.  Half of the Jewish population is concentrated in only 27.8% of the country, a very high population concentration.  The vision of this Government – and, I am convinced, of the next one, as well – is that of population dispersion, dealing with the peripheral areas and populating the Negev with hundreds of thousands of Israelis in order to exploit the great potential for development and prosperity which the State of Israel may expect from such a step."

4. Justice Minister Prof. Daniel Friedmann referred to an article, published on 26 September in Ha’aretz, which featured remarks by Israel Police Inspector-General Dudi Cohen.  Prime Minister Olmert recommended that Public Security Minister Avi Dicter reprimand Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Cohen over his remarks.

5. The Government recalled Prime Minister Olmert’s 22.6.08 speech to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, discussed Israel-Diaspora relations and decided that Prime Minister Olmert and Jewish Agency Chairman Ze’ev Bielski would establish a steering committee to deepen ties between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.  The committee will formulate a plan to strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora as well as ties between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities. 

6. The Government discussed the establishment of a new community in the Eron area (Galilee).