(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [archive])
Disengagement Authority head Tzvia Simon plans to leave her post at the end of the month after being on the job for three years. She was the second person to hold that post, replacing Yonatan Bassi in June 2006.
The Prime Minister's Office has yet to appoint her replacement. The cabinet is due this Sunday to discuss future plans to complete the rehabilitation of the close to 10,000 Israelis who were evacuated from Gaza and four northern Samaria settlements in the summer of 2005.
The Authority is scheduled to be disbanded in 2010, and its tasks distributed among the various ministries.
On Monday the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee chastised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his treatment of the evacuees, and in particular for failing during his time in office to convene the Director-General's Forum on matters relating to the evacuees.
It called for the forum to be convened and for Netanyahu to set a clear timetable by which he would advance the treatment of the evacuees.
In response the Prime Minister's Office pointed to the comments Netanyahu made in Sunday's cabinet meeting, during which he said, "We are committed to the full rehabilitation of our uprooted brothers and sisters in order to enable them to rebuild their destroyed lives."
At the Economic Affairs Committee meeting MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) attacked the 2005 Disengagement in general when he said that "unilateral moves distance rather than strengthen peace, as well as increase terror."
But regardless of what one's opinion was on the value of the disengagement, there was no disputing that it was a traumatic event for the evacuees, he said.
The state had an obligation to act swiftly to return their lives to normal, Akunis added.
Doron Ben-Shlomi, who heads the committee of former Gush Katif evacuees, acknowledged that the state had taken steps to help the evacuees in the last four years, but said the problem was they were still far from being resettled.
Dani Morbia, who heads the regional council for the Lachish region, where some of the evacuees have chosen to resettle, said that initially the former director-general of the Prime Minister's Office Ra'anan Dinur held inter-departmental discussions on the evacuees every two weeks. But those efforts slowed down after the creation of the Winograd Committee in 2006, which investigated the Second Lebanon War, he said.
In the government's defense, Amit Porat of the Disengagement Authority said the office had finished handing out the bulk of the personal housing compensation payments over a year ago. Porat added that 80 percent of the business compensations had also been paid. The remaining 20% had been given an advance equal to 80% of their compensation sums, Porat said.
With respect to housing, Porat said, 83% of the lots that would be available in communal settings had been distributed to more than 900 families.
In the past, the Disengagement Authority had stated that 1,133 out of 1,359 families eligible for those lots had chosen to live in such communal settings, while the rest had sought individual housing solutions.
Ben-Shlomi accused the Authority of exaggerating the number of evacuees who had housing solutions.
A representative of the Finance Ministry added that overall, NIS 7.3 billion had been spent on resettling the evacuees. The office later added that of that sum, NIS 4.3b. had been set aside for personal compensation, including individual housing. Overall, including the cost of the IDF and security-related matters, NIS 10b. has been spent on Disengagement.