Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today:
Prime Minister Olmert paid tribute to and eulogized Cpl. Ahikam Amihai and Sgt. David Rubin, who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Friday, near Halhoul, not far from Hebron: “This incident, perhaps more than any other, again highlights what the State of Israel has been saying throughout the diplomatic process between us and the Palestinians. As long as the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not take the necessary measures, with the necessary strength, in order to act against the terrorist organizations, the State of Israel will be unable to carry out any changes on the ground that could expose it to dangers and create problems for the security of the country, both for the Jewish residents in the areas in which they live and in any other area. We do not intend to compromise on these issues and they will certainly be an inseparable part of any dialogue that we hold with the PA. The Government of Israel sends its condolences to the bereaved families and salutes the heroism of the two soldiers, who fought bravely for their lives even when caught by total surprise.
On Thursday, opposition leader – and former Prime Minister – Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan. She believed in the values of freedom and democracy, struggled for them in Pakistan, returned to her country to take part in democratic elections and – in the end – fell victim to extremist-fundamentalist Islamic terrorism of the kind that we know all too well in our own region. This phenomenon of eliminating pro-democratic leaders who are struggling for democracy and progress against the values of intolerant fanaticism is one that we must condemn; we must give support to those countries that are fighting against it. Thus we have done in the past and thus the State of Israel must do now. We bow our heads in memory of Benazir Bhutto, who fought for freedom.
We will be briefed today on the economy. 2007 was marked by a series of impressive successes, which Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Stanley Fischer and National Economic Council Chairman Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg will brief us on.” Prime Minister Olmert noted that the 2008 state budget was approved last Thursday night and said that it is marked by, “concern for security, an increase in funds for education, and the dramatic expansion of social welfare services.”