evacuees in hotel 248 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
The Knesset voted 40 to 30 on Tuesday to endorse the government's efforts to help evacuees from the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Forty MKs signed a petition compelling Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to attend a special session on the issue in which he would address what his government was doing to help the evacuees. Olmert used his speech to praise the efforts of the disengagement authority and justify more withdrawals in the future.
"I always thought that evacuating the people who lived [in Gush Katif] for 30 years would bring unprecedented tragedy and dissension," Olmert said. "But the government will do everything needed to help the evacuees with housing, education and employment until they all have permanent housing, employment and schools for their children." Olmert said that 80 percent of the evacuees who asked for compensation have received it, at an average of NIS 1.4 million per family. He said that half of the 259 business owners and half the farmers who asked for compensation had been compensated thus far.
Turning his attention to National Union-National Religious Party MKs who heckled him throughout his speech, Olmert said that the leadership of the settlers misled them and that the settlers suffered while the people who gave them bad advice did not.
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu mocked Olmert for being willing to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank after the results of disengagement from Gaza. He said the government mishandled the funding of the evacuation of 10,000 people from Gaza and evacuating 100,000 people from the West Bank would cost NIS 1 million per person. Netanyahu called upon Olmert to form a task force that would meet regularly to help the evacuees and to give up plans to evacuate more.
"How can you say the security situation has improved?" Netanyahu asked Olmert. "Call [Sderot mayor] Eli Moyal and ask him. No one is buying these lies. You strengthened Hitler's representatives in Hamas." While Olmert's political opponents spoke, the prime minister sat and squirmed impatiently and talked to his coalition colleagues. Olmert's behavior was starkly different from that of his predecessor former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who made a point of sitting silently and not moving for hours during such sessions.
NU-NRP MK Zevulun Orlev said that disengagement had caused horrible suffering to the people of Gush Katif, 51% of whom are still unemployed. He said that out of the evacuees who went to Nitzan, most of whom were cooperative with the government, 70% are unemployed.
The sharpest outburst of the session came from Gil Pensioners' Party MK Moshe Sharoni, who pointed a finger at the NU-NRP MKs and shouted at them: "You should apologize to the evacuees from Gush Katif! You led them astray! You should be ashamed of yourselves!"
Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit announced that he would propose to the Ministerial Committee on Disengagement the forming of task forces to build permanent housing for the evacuees in new settlements in the Negev. He said he would also recommend forming two new government companies, under his jurisdiction, to advance the process and run the new communities until they are ready to run themselves. In the past, such task forces were successful in building communities like Arad, Karmiel, Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev.