Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assembled the newly formed Northern Cabinet designated to strengthen Haifa and the north calling on the ministers to do all they can to lead reconstruction and development of the region both in terms of resources and of time.
Olmert said in the meeting that the ministers must “conquer the north and bring it to a place where it would be stronger than ever.”
Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who is also Deputy Chair of the Cabinet, estimated that the Jewish communities around the world have so far raised an amount of $300 million for the north and added that it is possible to increase the sum to over $500 million. Interior Minister Ronny Bar-On said that the task of strengthening the local municipalities in the north started long before the war and there must be an emphasis on a comprehensive development plan.
Head of the Protection Department in the IDF’s Home Front Command Col. Yehiel Kuperstein reported in the meeting about the Command’s efforts to improve the readiness of the population, including maintaining and renovating 600 public bomb shelters.
Head of the Tax Authority Jackie Matza updated the ministers that up until this point about 14,000 claims for property damage have been submitted and the assessment is that the number will increase to about 18,000. Until now, about 2,000 families have received their compensation. Matza added that upon the conclusion of the assessment, the money is given to the families within days. Families, whose homes have been hit, may choose to fix the damages individually, or choose between four construction companies selected by the Treasury Ministry.
Chairman of the Local Municipality Board Adi Eldar suggested in the meeting to pass a law which will allow the municipality heads to compel its employees to work during emergencies. According to Eldar, many municipality workers disappeared during the war, and since they are essential workers, the municipality was not able to provide services. Eldar also suggested preparing emergency plans to evacuate certain populations in case of an emergency.
The Prime Minister summed up the meeting by saying that “the government did not foresee that a war would break out on July 12, but once it happened, government ministries acted accordingly each in their own area. As far as we are concerned, coordination with volunteering organizations is part of our vision. Many people don’t know, but a month before the war, Director General of the PM’s office held a discussion on the matter. During the war, the government subsidized more than 50 percent of activities conducted by the volunteering organizations.”
Olmert said at the conclusion that the Northern Cabinet will meet on a weekly basis.