The resettlement of the Israelis evacuated during 2005's Gaza disengagement has been a total failure, former Construction and Housing Ministry director-general Aryeh Bar said on Wednesday.
Bar was testifying at the third public hearing of the State Commission of Inquiry into the Handling by the Authorized Authorities of the Evacuees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria.
The commission's chairman, retired Supreme Court justice Eliyahu Mazza, and his fellow members Prof. Yedidya Stern and Dr. Moshe Ravid, also heard the other two people who served as directors-general of the Housing Ministry since the disengagement, Haim Pialkov and Shmuel Abuav.
"I told prime minister Ariel Sharon that I know how the government works and if the solution to the evacuation is not done by law, it will be fragmentary, difficult and will take a long time," Bar told the commission. "This is one of the gravest mistakes that were made.
"Everyone thought the resettlement would be quick and easy and that legislation would not be necessary. In my opinion, the lack of legislation led to an abysmal failure," he said.
The law that Bar envisaged would have given control of all aspects of the resettlement to one body so that the usual bureaucratic procedures, including the need for approval of any tender by the Finance Ministry's budget committee, could have been bypassed. The law would also have limited the amount of time the settlers had to decide where they wanted to live.
Asked what he thought of the comment of Yonatan Bassi, the first head of the Sela Disengagement Authority, which had overall responsibility for the resettlement, that one can use force to evacuate people but not to resettle them, Bar replied, "Bassi is an expert in agriculture, not in settlement. The legislation could have come later. I am talking about legislation after the demands of the settlers were known."
Bar said the settlers would have agreed to a timetable for implementing the resettlement as long as they trusted the government.
Abuav, who at one point was on the verge of tears, said the resettlement of the Gush Katif residents was one of the most difficult jobs of his career.
"It's hard for me to talk about the crises I saw," he told the commission. "I identify with their terrible suffering. I think the settlers were heroes in their ability to withstand the hardships and crises, the disappointment and the loss of faith, and I considered this to be the greatest mission of my public service."