New ministers speak of plans

Peretz: Abandon terror and Israel can make painful concessions. [video]

peretz shakes hands with (photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
peretz shakes hands with
(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
Defense Ministry Outgoing defense minister Shaul Mofaz asserted on Sunday that the security establishment under his leadership had managed to reduce terrorism by 90 percent, and urged his successor, Defense Minister Amir Peretz to continue to reduce terrorism. "I want to thank the Creator who has given me the privilege to be a part of this system," Mofaz said as he departed from the ministry which he oversaw for five years. [For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here] He expressed confidence in Peretz's ability to head the forces "wisely, responsibly, and collectedly," as he was being entrusted with "one of [Israel's] most sensitive, complex and important systems." As he took the reins over the security forces, Peretz paid homage to his predecessor Mofaz, saying that he saw him as "an officer and a gentleman, a leader and above all a man."
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Peretz, at his first public address since taking his new position, insisted that the Palestinians abandon terror and fight incitement and violence, saying "Not through terror will you achieve your goals." He vowed that if they were to do that they would find Israel's hand extended towards them, ready to achieve peace, "even at the cost of painful concessions." Internal Security Ministry Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter marked a first on Sunday, a fact that he admitted only after he completed his review of a police and Prisons Authority honor guard under the bright afternoon sunlight. "I am a person who becomes emotional easily," the former Shin Bet chief told the assembled crowd at a celebratory toast, "but today was really something special for me. I've reviewed German honor guards before, Polish honor guards, Egyptian honor guards, and even - its kind of funny to say - Palestinian honor guards. But today is the first time I've had the honor of reviewing an Israeli honor guard." The incoming minister offered compliments to outgoing minister Gideon Ezra, Dichter's former commander in the Shin Bet, saying that the twenty month's of Ezra's tenure in office were the most challenging in the history of the ministry and of the police. Picking up on the tone of the brief remarks made by Ezra, in which he said, "the struggle of violence does not begin with police, but rather ends with the police," Dichter said that his top priority was maintaining the rule of order. "Our time is short, our work is long and hard, but the people of Israel have demanded: Return our security," Dichter said, before an audience that contained senior police and Prisons Service officers. Interior Ministry Ronnie Bar-On declared that he would prioritize issues related to municipalities, planning, and foreign workers at a ceremony marking his inauguration as Interior Minister Sunday. He began his remarks by thanking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for choosing him for the post, and then declared, "I will do my utmost to ensure that the citizens of Israel will be able to say that it is nicer to live here." One of the more contentious issues he faces, however, is the status of those who want to become citizens but can't: foreign workers and their children. Over the weekend, Bar-On said he hoped to resolve the issue within two weeks. "In my mind, there's no reason whatsoever why a child born in Israel wouldn't receive citizenship," he said. Justice Ministry The new Minister of Justice, Haim Ramon, said in his inaugural message that he wants to raise the status of the courts in the eyes of all sectors of Israeli society, speed up judicial procedures and pass legislation to help the fight against violence. Ramon was speaking at a changing of the guard ceremony at the Justice Ministry in which he took over from former Justice Minister and now Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Regarding the courts, Ramon said "in the past few years, there has been a marked erosion in the status of the courts in the eyes of the public. There are certain sectors of the public where the court's status has weakened even more. The status of the court is not determined only by the way it is viewed by jurists and academics, but also by the way it is seen to conduct itself by the general public. The judicial system should not be tainted by populism, but must be well received by the nation, all of the nation." Education Ministry One of the first things that Education Minister Yuli Tamir is going to do in her new job is to order the state funding of school meals, including in Ultra-Orthodox schools. Six months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the state does not have to finance meals at schools that aren't officially funded by the Education Ministry. In addition, newly-appointed Tamir, who replaced Imor Livnat, said on Sunday that she would fight the slated NIS 90 million cut to the education budget, which would result in 600 teachers being fired and 12,000 classroom hours cut by the end of May 2006. Health Ministry New Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri of the Gil Pensioners Party, who worked as a middle manager for Clalit Health Services and is replacing Yaacov Edri, is a complete unknown at the ministry. Ben-Yizri will find a few urgent matters waiting for him, as well as many more fundamental issues that have long waited for someone to make strategic decisions. The first group includes demands to expand the 2006 basket of health services beyond what has been promised by the Treasury and finding money to expand radiotherapy institute facilities and manpower to improve cancer treatments. Ben-Yizri will try to persuade the Treasury to update the basket of health services automatically by a set amount every year, eliminating the enervating and degrading annual ritual of ministry staff having to beg Treasury budget officials for more money. He will also have to decide how to deal with the ministry's many shortcomings, as described in detail in the State Comptroller's Report to be released to the public on Tuesday. The report devotes 200 of its 1,000 pages to health issues. Communications Ministry Incoming Communications Minister Ariel Attias replaced outgoing Communications Minister Avraham Hirchson at a ceremony that took place Monday afternoon at the Communications Ministry in Jerusalem. Attias, a newly elected MK and one of the four youngest Knesset Members, is considered close to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. Immigrant Absorption Ministry New minister Ze'ev Boim vowed Sunday that his first task as head of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry would be to try to increase the budget allocated for helping new citizens, specifically those from Ethiopia. He also told The Jerusalem Post that he is particularly interested in encouraging additional olim from English-speaking countries to come here and finding ways to support their transition to life in Israel. "One of the major efforts that we should make in Israel is to increase the number of immigrants from the Western World and mainly the Jewish community from the United States and France, where as the community faces very serious problems of anti-Semitism," he said. "I hope we will be able to improve the entire infrastructure here about how to absorb Jews from Western countries. It's totally different from people that came from other countries." He declined to offer any specific programs for helping this immigrant population, since it was his first day on the job and he said he had yet to immerse himself fully in the issues.