I would like to say a few words about Yitzhak Shamir. Of course, I will say more at tomorrow's official ceremony on Mt. Herzl and in a moment I will ask Stas to brief us on the details of the ceremony, but I would like to begin with a story that says much about Yitzhak Shamir. One day, as he sat here in the Prime Minister's office, a delegation of Likud members arrived and they sought to advance the candidacy of one of our members for a certain post. This was in the afternoon. Yitzhak Shamir welcomed them, saw a large group in the middle of the day and told them 'What are you doing here? Go to work.' This says everything about the man – blunt, a man of truth, simple, direct and, of course, with great inner strength.
Yitzhak Shamir was from the generation of giants that established the State of Israel. He dedicated his life and all his might to ensuring the existence of the state, the freedom of the Jewish People, the security of Israel's citizens and the ingathering of the exiles.
It is important to know that Shamir had a decisive role in directing hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union to the Land of Israel. He worked urgently with the American administration in order to ensure that the first transit station would be in the Land of Israel, in the State of Israel. He said, 'Come here first. Choose after you have seen the choice here' – and there is no doubt that with this stubbornness, he changed the fate of the country because, to a large extent, he made sure that this welcome immigration, with all its strength, came here. And we see that he was right, that the decisive majority stayed here.
He was also responsible for the immigration of 15,000 Jews from Ethiopia in one operation, which also expressed his deep commitment to the Zionist idea, to the Jewish future, and he was, of course, very forthright in his approach to the diplomatic issue. He went to Madrid, but he knew how to utilize his strength and his ideological resolve regarding the Land of Israel. He also knew to go toward the peace process – I attended that conference. I saw his actions and his decisions – he was very sagacious. I think he was a man who really saw the good of the country as he understood it and acted for the good of the country as he understood it.
Today we have lost a true Jewish patriot and one of the Jewish People's solid leaders. He may not have been especially charismatic, but he simply had inner strength and this, in my opinion, is more important than anything else.
Regarding his statements about neighbors, about the separation between the sea and the land – it could be that these remarks, which invoked strong criticism, even contempt – today, there are certainly many more people who understand that this man saw and understood fundamental and genuine things and never bent either himself or the truth to fit the fashion of the time. Therefore, I think that it is proper that we honor him in meetings, at tomorrow's ceremony, and at special meetings to be held today, the memory of Yitzhak Shamir, one of the founders of the State of Israel and one of its most dedicated leaders ever.
I will break – we have a second topic, actually two, that we will discuss.
The main issue that will come before the Cabinet today is the deficit. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and I have held many discussions. We also met with professional teams, with Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Stanley Fischer and with my economic advisors, and the recommendation that I have decided to adopt is that of the Finance Minister regarding a 3% deficit. I would like to explain what we are doing and what we are not doing. What we are not doing is we are not changing the expenditure target. In the end, what the Government controls is the expenditure target and that we are sticking to scrupulously, as we have always done.
I can tell you that when I was Finance Minister during the economic crisis in 2003, I said that we absolutely controlled expenditures. Revenue can rise or fall. What the Government controls is the expenditure target. We are adjusting the deficit target in relation to revenue to the 'Maastricht target', this is the target, the European standard of 3%.
It seems to me that in Europe, Germany is perhaps the only country that is under this, that most countries, not all, are over this. We will be there. This requires us to take actions that are not simple, we will need to do a series of things, also vis-à-vis taxation, in order to meet this target. But I did not want, not in 2003 when I was Finance Minister and not now, when I spoke about it with the Finance Minister, to increase the tax burden too much. When you increase the tax burden, you depress growth. And when you depress growth, you do two things. You increase unemployment and – in the end – you increase the deficit.
And therefore, I think that this is the right dosage and I decided to accept Finance Minister Steinitz's recommendation because I think that it is in the proper measure. We will still need to make taxation adjustments – this means that we will need to raise certain taxes. And in order to meet the expenditure target, we will need to do other things and we will do so, and we will meet both the expenditure target and the deficit target. And in the end, this is how we will be tested – and we will be successful. I have no doubts.
And lastly, the children are on summer vacation. I would like to tell Israeli children to enjoy and have fun, but to also be careful on the roads and beaches, and most importantly, from long experience, listen to your parents and do what they tell you."
2. Tourism Minister and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies Stas Misezhnikov briefed ministers on the arrangements for the funeral of Israel's seventh Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, which will take place tomorrow (Monday, 2 July 2012).
3. Pursuant to previous decisions on the issue of strengthening Sderot and the other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, the Cabinet amended its 1 January 2012 decision and decided to increase the amount of the special grant available to the eligible local authorities in the aforesaid areas. Click here for further details.
4. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan briefed ministers on his participation in the recent Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil.
5. Minister Michael Eitan briefed ministers on the UN prize that Israel recent won on the issue of the accessibility of digital Government services to the public.
6. The Cabinet decided to evaluate the possibility of investing in aquaculture in Eilat and its contribution to employment and the economy in the area.
7. The Cabinet decided to accept Finance Minister Steinitz's recommendation that the Government oppose draft legislation regarding a revision of tolls on Highway #6.
8. The Cabinet decided to submit draft amendments to the 1998 Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law to the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.
9. The Cabinet approved outlines for reducing the deficit in 2013-2019 and decided:
Finance Minister Steinitz will – by 3 July – submit a memorandum on amending the 1998 Deficit Reduction and Budgetary Expenditure Limitation Law so as to determine the following deficit-to-GDP ratios:
* In 2013 – no higher than 3%;* In 2014 – no higher than 2.75%;* In 2015 – no higher than 2.5%;* In 2016 – no higher than 2%;* In 2017-2018 – less than 2%;* In 2019 – no higher than 1.5%.