At the weekly Cabinet meeting today:

1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:

Today, we will begin a discussion of historic significance in the State of Israel, on the construction of a railway from Tel Aviv to Eilat and from Eilat to Ashdod.  The former will be for passengers; the trip will take approximately two hours.  It will, of course, link up with the periphery in a way that has not been done up until now.  The latter route will be for shipping freight from Asia to Europe, which will create a very great interest on the part of Asia’s rising powers, China and India, as well as of other countries, in the State of Israel.  Therefore, there is strategic, national and international importance to building this line.

We will begin the discussion today; I estimate that we will need another meeting to complete it. 

This change is, in effect, the realization of the vision of linking up the country via the development of transportation infrastructure from the north, from Kiryat Shemona, to Eilat, including expressways without traffic lights and railways, both within the State of Israel and as a transit point between continents.

This is one more decision that we have not merely discussed, such as the border fence and the law on free education from age three.  We do not declare, we simply get things done.

Last week, I spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  I commended them on the steps that Europe has taken against Iran, against both its petroleum exports and its central bank. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will arrive here in the coming days.  I will sit with him and discuss the strengthening and intensifying of these sanctions, as well as our hope that the Palestinians will stay in the talks in order to reach, in the end, concrete negotiations between us on a peace agreement.  As of now, according to what has happened in recent days, when the Palestinians refused to even discuss with us the State of Israel’s security needs, the signs are not particularly good.  But I hope that they will come around and continue the talks so that we might advance toward real negotiations."

2. The Cabinet appointed one member, and three acting members, to the Israel Land Administration Council. 
3. Pursuant to Article 11 of the 1975 Government Companies Law, the Cabinet approved a plan to raise capital for the Israel Electric Corporation. 

4. The Cabinet approved the granting of a permit to the Culture and Sports Ministry (Sports Administration) to receive NIS 5 million per annum from the Sports Betting Council for its project to promote sports for women. 

5. The Cabinet decided to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Socio-Economic Change (the Trajtenberg Committee) to ease the economic burden on Israeli citizens by encouraging competitiveness, including from imports, reducing bureaucracy and increasing trade between Israel and the rest of the world.  To these ends, the Cabinet enacted provisions regarding product standards and import levies. 

6. The Cabinet decided to increase the rate of participation in the labor force and the rate of employment in order to improve the growth potential of the economy and reduce the level of inequality and social gaps among the Arab, Druze and Circassian populations; to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities; to step up the enforcement of labor laws; and to encourage the employment of single parents.  Click here for further details.

7. The Cabinet discussed the issue of permits for foreign workers and encouraging the employment of Israeli citizens.  Click here for further details.

8. The Cabinet discussed and approved Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias’s proposal regarding changes in housing benefits provided in national priority areas.  Click here for further details.

9. The Cabinet began its discussion of the Eilat railway project.  Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz and senior ministry officials briefed ministers on the main points of the project.

The Cabinet will continue to discuss the issue.