(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly Cabinet meeting held Sunday, 22 March 2009:
1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks:
"Last night a huge disaster was averted in Haifa, after a vehicle laden with dozens of kilograms of explosives was activated but did not detonate. Police sappers were able to successfully neutralize it. As far as the State of Israel is concerned, this was, purely, a terrorist attack. Only through the awareness of citizens and the quick actions of the Israel Police did a miracle occur and this terrorist attack ended without casualties. We are talking about a mall which, precisely at those hours, was crowded with hundreds of people in a very sensitive area, that if, heaven forbid, the explosion had occurred as planned, it could have ended in a terrible tragedy.
Naturally, the State of Israel takes these attacks very seriously. The security forces are already investigating the incident in order to uncover the perpetrators and bring about their capture. Initial findings indicate that we are talking about a very serious terrorist infrastructure, which operated with great sophistication in order to perpetrate a large-scale attack with multiple casualties. We should not delude ourselves. Terrorist organizations' attempts to perpetrate attacks within Israel's borders and in the heart of the country are an ongoing affair, in which one of the main jumping off points is in Judea and Samaria. There also, Hamas wants to bolster its position, its infrastructure and its ability to carry out terrorist attacks which would inflict the most serious harm to the population of Israel.
We should express tremendous appreciation to our security forces who continue to foil these attacks through impressive integrated efforts - the ISA, the IDF, the Israel Police and other bodies involved in day-to-day prevention in these areas. We cannot always know in advance. Thank heavens that sometimes these attacks are spoiled by the exceptional alertness of citizens, as occurred last night at the Lev Hamifratz Mall in Haifa.
The coming days, leading up to Passover, are, by their very nature, days in which terrorist organizations will try more than ever to disrupt life in Israel. The security forces will be on their highest alert in order to prevent these attacks. I call upon the citizens of Israel to be especially alert, to pay close attention, to apply all cautionary measures in which they have been instructed, and let us all hope together that the coming days will be days of quiet and tranquility."
2. Public Security Minister Avi Dicter briefed ministers on the attempted terrorist attack at the Lev Hamifratz Mall in Haifa , including the security forces' handling of the matter.
3. Justice Minister Prof. Daniel Friedmann briefed ministers on the decisions of the committee on the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which he chaired.
The Cabinet approved the appointment of a professional team led by Israel Prison Service Commissioner Benny Kaniak. The team will include representatives of the Attorney General's office, the Israel Prison Service, the IDF and the ISA, and will work to reduce privileges afforded Hamas and Islamic Jihad security prisoners. The team will work and instruct the relevant bodies within two weeks.
Regarding the privileges afforded Palestinian prisoners, the Government instructed all the appropriate bodies not to grant any privilege, which is not obligated by justice, by law, or by treaties to which Israel is a party. In this matter, Israel will conduct itself appropriately, meticulously, and will do whatever is required, and no more.
The Government of Israel has instructed the bodies dealing with the matter, to enable the entry - without restriction - of foodstuffs to the residents of Gaza from all relevant sources, after it has been verified that they are indeed foodstuffs, and this in the framework of the humanitarian efforts. The Government directs that the foregoing be scrupulously implemented.
4. Prime Minister Olmert briefed ministers on the achievements of the 31st Government, which he heads, in the following areas:
- improving the balance of payments;
- the increase in private consumption in 2005-2008;
- increased exports of goods and services in 2005-2008;
- the employment rate;
- the conduct of the Government's budget policy (limiting expenditures and maintaining deficit targets);
- dealing with the global economic crisis;
- formulating a socio-economic agenda;
- raising the minimum wage and enforcing labor laws;
- using a negative income tax;
- the beginning of mandatory pensions for all workers;
- the reconstruction of the Wisconsin Plan;
- formulating a plan to assist needy Holocaust survivors and the elderly;
- significantly increasing the health basket;
- operating a national civic service in Israel;
- the status of women in Israeli society;
- promoting legislation to encourage the employment of women;
- integrating women from the minorities sector into the labor force;
- the inter-ministerial plan to deal with sexual assault victims and for removing women from the cycle of prostitution;
- the national plan for children and youth at risk;
- the construction of 8,000 classrooms;
- increased budgets for, and the implementation of changes, in higher education; and
- the New Horizon reforms in the education system.
Prime Minister Olmert also discussed the diplomatic moves that have been initiated by the Government, as well as the Government's achievements regarding state security and the country's security abilities.