Sderot businesses battle for compensation

Angry merchants, demonstrate against governmental foot-dragging.

Mirek Topolanek 88 224 (photo credit: )
Mirek Topolanek 88 224
(photo credit: )
On an unusually calm day in Sderot, another battle continued to rage over a compensation package the town's beleaguered business owners say they deserve to receive after facing eight years of rocket fire. In a spontaneous display of fury, a number of the town's business owners held an unplanned demonstration Wednesday morning over the government's ongoing refusal to grant Sderot's businesses compensation funds. "They're very angry, and are tired of being treated like a yo-yo," Yossi Cohen, a lawyer who acts as the town's spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post. "We've been suffering for seven years, and we're being mocked by Knesset members," he said. Cohen is leading a High Court of Justice battle to obtain the funds. "In May 2007, the government declared Sderot as a frontline community, after people were killed by Kassams," he said, speaking in his office at the Sderot Municipality. "But that declaration was valid for just two weeks. Why? We've been under rocket fire for eight years." In 2007, Cohen launched a High Court suit aimed at forcing the government to provide compensation, an effort that saw a partial breakthrough when a High Court finance committee ruled that Sderot should be granted some retroactive compensation for damages incurred by the rocket fire since 2005. "They said we should compromise with the Finance Ministry, but we have nothing to compromise over," Cohen said, adding that he has appealed to the High Court to provide full compensation. A decision is expected by next week, he said. But even a decision in his favor won't necessarily mean an end to the battle, Cohen conceded, because the Finance Ministry has consistently refused to the compensation. "They're the main obstacle to the funds," he said. "They say it would be too much money, although we are talking about a few million shekels at most. There are only 740 licensed businesses in Sderot and the Gaza Periphery." "Apparently this town is too small to harm [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert politically, unlike Shas, which was given NIS 460 million for their educational centers so that they would remain in the coalition," Cohen said. "Although we are desperate, we're also hopeful," he added. "We believe things will work out eventually." A Finance Ministry representative was not available for comment.