The cost of the disengagement program from Gaza is likely to be NIS 1 billion less than expected, the head of the Disengagement Authority, Yonatan Bassi, said Tuesday.
Under a law passed by the Knesset, the government had to allocate NIS 4.5b. for compensation to the evacuated residents, but Bassi believes the number is too high.
"If you ask me about this estimate, it's an overstatement because I believe it will cost about NIS 1b. less," he said, speaking at a conference in Jerusalem for employees of the Treasury's budget department.
Bassi said the compensation money was used to reimburse settlers for the loss of housing, work and businesses. He said NIS 1b. has been paid thus far.
In addition, the government has allocated NIS 1.3b for the other civilian costs of the program such as paying for the former settlers to stay in hotels and for the development of temporary accommodations.
Before Bassi's speech, Kobi Haber, director of the budgets department, said he expects the full cost of disengagement to be between NIS 8.5b. and NIS 9b., including just over NIS 2b. for military and police expenses.
Bassi also gave a summary of the state of the resettlement program, saying the authority was facilitating a request from 80% of the former settlers to remain with their communities.
The evacuees have spread out in small communities and kibbutzim across the country, with more than half being placed in the south. One of the biggest concentrations of former settlers is in Yad Binyamin, a community east of Ashdod, which has absorbed 250 families at a cost of NIS 125m. In addition to paying for housing, the money has been used to cover the cost of setting up schools, kindergartens, synagogues, a social club, and a sports hall.
Over 440 families are located in permanent housing in Nitzan, which is south of Ashdod, while Ein Tzurim, a kibbutz east of Ashkelon, has absorbed 130 families.