Following are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks today (Monday), 29 June 2008, at the start of the special Cabinet meeting:

"Today, at the end of the meeting, the Government will discuss various issues related to the calm in Gaza and all issues related to advancing the steps regarding the release of Gilad Shalit. As you know, close to the Cabinet decision on the calm, I left for Egypt to discuss the issue with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and I also discussed this with senior intelligence officials. Ofer Dekel, who has been appointed by me to conduct the negotiations, had already visited Egypt and should further technical clarifications vis-à-vis the decision prove necessary, in the wake of the High Court of Justice decision, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the official who was in charge of the contacts that were held with Egypt on the issue, will give them at the end of today’s meeting.

At the start of the meeting, we will discuss the issue of the abducted soldiers in Lebanon, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Every week at the Cabinet meeting, sensitive and important issues arise that determine the daily life and quality of life in the State of Israel, and sometimes even life itself. Even in the routine context of the importance of Cabinet discussions, there is no doubt that today’s discussion is very special, exceptionally sensitive and perhaps has deep national-moral consequences that are not typical of the important discussions held around the Cabinet table.

For two years, the Government has held negotiations via the UN Secretary-General’s special mediator, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution #1701, after the Government conditioned its acceptance on the explicit, unequivocal and sharp demand to include in it the release of our abductees. We were not prepared to adopt the resolution without this issue which is of supreme moral importance to us. Throughout this period, our enemies, Hezbollah, tried every possible manipulation of Israeli society’s deepest and most exposed feelings in order to influence the mood here also in order to exploit Israeli society’s special moral sensitivity so as to prevent us from achieving a quick result on correct and balanced terms appropriate for such issues.

I admit that I have deliberated for a long time on this issue due to its many facets – morally, in regard to the background in which we are dealing with matters, from the perspective of the history that has accompanied these contacts and, mainly, with regard to future consequences. Indeed, I have deliberated very deeply. Even people who bear supreme responsibility in positions like mine are allowed to deliberate. Sometimes, it must be said in all honesty, it is an obligation, before reaching a decision, the consequences of which will be part of our daily lives for years to come.  I have been dealing with this throughout the recent period and even the conclusions that I have drawn are not free of doubts and dilemmas that we will have to deal with for many years to come.

The Government will discuss the issue today and will make a decision today. The issues will be presented in all aspects and details necessary to make this decision. In the end, we are the ministers who bear the supreme, collective responsibility for Government decisions and we will need to bear this responsibility in such a way that we will be able to look in the eyes of the members of the Goldwasser, Regev, Arad, Haran and Shalit families, and in the eyes of every citizen of the State of Israel, and mainly so that we will be able to face our own consciences and say that our consciences were clean at the time we made these critical decisions."