Gov't approves NIS 640 million final aid package to evacuees

The Ministerial Disengagement Committee approved what was considered the final payment to settlers who were forced to leave their part of the disengagement in the summer of 2005.

evacuees in hotel 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy [file])
evacuees in hotel 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
The Ministerial Disengagement Committee on Wednesday approved what was termed by the government to be the final payment to settlers who were forced to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria as part of the disengagement in the summer of 2005. An additional NIS 640 million were allocated, including an extra NIS 7,000 for each settler who was forced to leave the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank. The latest package also includes additional payments linked to the years the evacuees lived in the communities, benefits to cover the cost of rental fees before permanent accommodation was found, assistance for job training and special financial help for those who are still unemployed. There are also grants for families who chose to relocate to the Lachish region between Ashkelon and Jerusalem. The measures approved by the Ministerial Disengagement Committee follow ongoing contacts between Ra'anan Dinur, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, and two Knesset members who represented the settlers, Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) and Uri Ariel (NU-NRP). With the approval of the latest package the Knesset members agreed that there would be no additional compensation claims on behalf of the evacuees. The government had already allocated some NIS 2.5 billion to the former settlers. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the committee that he had backed the disengagement from the start, "but one thing is clear - there is a difference between the feelings of the public in support of this justified process, and the feelings of those who felt their whole world had been torn apart." Olmert described the latest package as a turning point that would make the lives of the evacuees easier. "We wanted to display empathy and, where necessary, show compassion," Olmert said. "The State of Israel can be more generous than it has been in the past." Dinur noted that 1,200 out of the 1,400 families have accepted government solutions for relocation within a community framework. Lior Kalfa, who heads the committee of former Gush Katif residents, said it was his understanding that the monetary grant was for personal compensation and did not include the money that was still needed for businessmen and farmers. But he said he believed that additional decisions to help the businessmen and the farmers would be made within a month. Kalfa said he was pleased with the ministerial committee's decision, even though he criticized the length of time it took to find adequate personal solutions for the evacuees. "I find it hard to understand why it took the government a year and a half to give us what we deserve. We expect compensation for former business owners and farmers that is similar to what we received on personal and family levels," Kalfa said. "I also hope the government will commit itself to a specific timetable regarding the establishment of permanent settlements," he added. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.