(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 7 December 2008:
1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks at the start of the meeting:
"Last week, the Kassam and mortar fire at communities in southern Israel continued, as part of a trend that began several weeks ago and which originated with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations active in the Gaza Strip, in order to worsen the security situation. The terrorist organizations are totally responsible for violating these rules. The State of Israel does not intend to show restraint over this, nor will it countenance such a situation. In recent days, I held a series of consultations with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and we agreed to formulate the Government’s position in order to assure that this situation does not continue. We entered into what is called a ‘calm’ not with enthusiasm but with hesitation and with the sense that if it would indeed be upheld according to the understood rules, then we could bring calm to an area that has suffered from relentless terrorism for such a long period. The possibility exists if it is upheld. If it is not upheld, then the State of Israel has no intention of countenancing its violent, brutal and cruel violation by the terrorist organizations. Even during this politically sensitive period, we will act with determination, responsibility and all due seriousness, but without hesitation, in order to prevent unnecessary suffering to the residents of the south.
The Government decided a long time ago to reinforce structures in the zone 4.5 kilometers from the border out of concern that this is a critical area that needs such reinforcement. We defined this activity and provided a budget. As of today, over NIS 1.15 billion has been invested in structural reinforcement in the south. NIS 327 million has been budgeted in 2009 for reinforcing residential units. Approximately one week ago, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On presented a plan for accelerating real economic activity, strengthening employment wherever there is concern that it could shrink, and continuing the process of fostering growth as it existed before the great economic crisis. During the discussion, the possibility was raised that, as part of this effort, we would also increase structural reinforcement activity within the 4.5 kilometer zone.
Last Thursday, the ‘House of Contention’ was evacuated in Hebron. Last Sunday, Defense Minister Barak and I met with heads of the security establishment and decided that, if the dialogue that we were attempting to hold with certain elements that we felt were likely to influence those who had invaded the house failed, an evacuation would be carried out quickly, efficiently and with minimal friction. The decision was made on Sunday and we acted accordingly. I think that the Government’s restraint, as well as our determination in carrying out the decision, were correct, justified and worthy of esteem. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Defense Minister Barak, Public Security Minister Avi Dicter, the IDF, the Israel Police and the security forces and services for the operation. This was an exemplary action. Immediately after the evacuation, there were actions that cannot be described except as an attempted pogrom by Jews from the Hebron area and other areas against Palestinian residents in Judea and Samaria. I say this after much thought. I formulate these words with the greatest care that I can. We are the children of a people whose historic ethos is built on the memory of pogroms. The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom. Even when Jews do this, it is a pogrom. As a Jew, I am ashamed that Jews could do such a thing. Defense Minister Barak and I have turned to the appropriate elements in order to assure that law enforcement authorities will take aggressive and sharp action to bring those responsible to justice and that law enforcement authorities’ intolerable forgiveness toward lawbreakers from among the settler community will completely stop. I hope that this will be so. I have spoken with Defense Minister Barak. We are instructing the security forces to do their utmost to prevent illegal and violent actions by Jews toward Palestinians in all areas under the responsibility of the State of Israel."
Prime Minister Olmert also discussed the issue of security at educational institutions.
2. Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Israel Antiquities Authority representatives briefed ministers on archaeological excavations and preservation work at the Western Wall plaza and elsewhere in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the last three years, the IAA has carried out extensive excavations and work in the area of the Western Wall plaza and has discovered important findings from the First Temple, Second temple, Roman, Byzantine and early Arab periods. This activity was the result of a Government decision to invest resources in excavating, preserving, removing dangers in and rehabilitating the Western Wall compound, under the management of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and carried out by the IAA.
3. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Finance Ministry Director-General Yoram Ariav and other senior Finance Ministry officials briefed the Cabinet on the Finance Ministry plan to deal with the global economic crisis.
4. Interior Minister Meir Shetrit and Interior Ministry Director-General Aryeh Bar briefed the Cabinet on the activities of the Interior Ministry.
5. The Cabinet discussed the establishment of an authority to enforce construction and planning laws.
6. The Cabinet discussed a project to strengthen socio-economically underdeveloped rural and urban communities in peripheral areas of the country and to populate the Galilee and the Negev.
7. The Cabinet discussed the structural reinforcement of residential units in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and decided as follows:
Pursuant to its 24 February 2008 decision, a plan was approved to structurally reinforce residential units in communities within 4.5 kilometers of the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip and, in light of the continuing security threat to residents of Sderot and other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip:
To approve budgeting for the remaining stages of the structural reinforcement plan, regarding residential units in communities within 4.5 kilometers of the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip which were not included in the first stage of the structural reinforcement plan as detailed in the 24 February 2008 decision, by building protected spaces of up to nine square meters or alternate solutions. The communities included in this decision are: Sderot, Kfar Aza, Yad Mordechai, Or Haner, Sa’ad, Alumim, Sufa, Ein Hashelosha, Nirim, Nir Oz, Nir Yitzhak, Hulit, Prigan, Sde Avraham, Yated and Be’eri.
The Finance Ministry will transfer NIS 600 million to the Construction and Housing Ministry in order to finance completion of the structural reinforcement plan. The Housing and Construction Ministry will bear overall responsibility for implementing the structural reinforcement plan, on the basis of the aforesaid budget and in accordance with priorities to be defined by the IDF Home Front Command, will act to begin implementation of this decision immediately, and will complete construction in 2009-2011.