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More than a year after they were removed from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria, the first 21 of 1,400 evacuee families living in temporary group situations received permits to start building their new permanent homes on Thursday.
Government officials admitted on Thursday that the initial two-year timetable, which called for the final resettlement of all 1,400 evacuee families by August 2007, was optimistic.
"It will take some time," said Interior Ministry spokesman Moshe Mosko, whose office is responsible for providing permits for the sites so that they can be released for construction.
He estimated that most of the families would receive permission to build new permanent homes within the next two years, thereby extending the initial process by a year.
The timetable went awry in the early stages, when settlers spent months, and in some cases close to a year, living in hotel rooms as they waited to move into their temporary modular homes.
Gaza evacuee leaders have been so upset by the delay that they sent the government a letter last month demanding the government move more quickly. But Mosko said while the pace was agonizing for the former settlers, permits for their homes were actually being pushed forward at a faster rate than other construction projects throughout the country.
He noted that a major construction project in western Jerusalem had been winding its way through the process for the last four years. The new two-year time frame actually reflected the fast pace at which the government is moving here, he said.
Disengagement Authority spokesman Haim Altman said that of the 1,700 families evacuated from Gaza and four communities in northern Samaria, some 300 had opted to seek individual options. The 1,400 remaining families who struggled to find communal solutions had chosen final places for their new permanent homes in 20 different sites.
In each case there was a long, complicated story to explain the delay, said Altman. Some of the problems had to do with the difficult evacuee requests and in other cases it was the governmental process that was moving slowly, he said.
In Bat Hadar, outside of Ashkelon, the government on Thursday approved a total of 49 slots for construction for the evacuees, but only 21 Gaza families want to settle in that community, said Altman.
Bat Hadar is one of the initial permanent resettlement sites for which an agreement was reached in February 2005 for families from Elei Sinai and Nisanit in northern Gaza.
But not everyone who made early agreements with the government prior to the implementation of disengagement is having an easy time. According to Altman, the former Gaza community of Pe'at Sadeh, which agreed in December 2004 to move to Moshav Mavki'im, still lacks permits to construct permanent homes.
Former Gaza resident Anita Tucker said the process of permanent resettlement in Yesodot has involved such burdensome bureaucracy for the members of the former Netzer Hazani settlements that they pooled their money and hired a full-time staff person to help them through the paper work and endless meetings.
They hired a second staff person to handle all the bureaucracy involved with living in their temporary site, Tucker said.