1,100 evacuee families to stay together

The government will spend an additional NIS 47 million to house 436 families in hotels even though it has only reimbursed three of the 140 Gaza business owners who applied for compensation. On Sunday, the Ministerial Disengagement Committee authorized the additional funds to help those families in hotels who are waiting for their temporary abodes to become available or who are still struggling to find homes. Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi and other officials also briefed the committee on the status of the evacuees with respect to compensation, employment, hotel stays, temporary homes and permanent ones. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reminded the committee that "our activity" on behalf of the evacuees "has not stopped. We must continue to act. We must not slacken." He said that the committee was looking at what had been done, "what needs to be done and how we can hasten this activity." Bassi said that 1,300 families were placed in hotels immediately after disengagement was carried out in August. By the end of December, he estimates that number, now at 436, will be down to 130. Prime Minister's Office director-general Ilan Cohen told the Committee that over 1,100 out of the 1,700 families evacuated this summer from Gaza and four northern Samaria communities would continue to live with their original neighbors. Bassi said that scores of families from the Gaza settlements of Atzmona and Netzarim are living in the Yuval and Yated area in the Negev. He called them "true pioneers" and said that permanent communities of Shlomit and Halutzit were being built for them in Halutza in the Negev. Families from Moshav Katif are looking to move to Moshav Amatzya. Some families from Atzmona are also looking to move to Kibbutz Shomriya. Gaza families will also be moving to Lachish. In addition, Bassi said that families from Gadid, Bedolah, Morag, Gan Or and Netzer Hazani would build their permanent homes in Nitzan. Progress is being made on the request by Elei Sinai members to move to Kibbutz Palmahim, said Bassi. The Interior Ministry registrar of non-profit associations has approved the step, according to Bassi, but there are still a number of other bureaucratic steps that are needed before final approval can be given. Other Elei Sinai families are moving to Moshav Talmei Yaffe and Bat Hadar. Ganei Tal families have temporarily moved to Yad Binyamin and are negotiating to build new homes in Hafetz Haim, said Bassi. Netzer Hazani residents are still debating where their new home will be, he said, and among the solutions are the Golan Heights and Kibbutz Ein Tzurim. Thirteen Shirat Hayam families are currently staying in Alon Shvut and are looking to rebuild in the Jordan Valley. Some 30 families from Dugit and Nisanit are waiting for their homes to be constructed in Moshav Bustan Hagalil. In the interim, they are living in rental apartments, said Bassi. Thirteen Neveh Dekalim families are moving to Magen Shaul. Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry Director-General Ra'anan Dinur said that 38 Gaza business have relocated. As of now, 140 business owners have applied for compensation, of which 32 requests were approved and three have been fulfilled. He said the rest would be reimbursed in the coming weeks. Ministry data showed that some 740 wage earners, 520 self-employed workers and 300 people who were not in the labor force lived in the evacuated areas. Many of the evacuees said they can't start new jobs until they move into their permanent housing, Dinur said. He said his office was running an employment center that has spoken to 794 evacuees. The Ministry, he said, is also holding training courses. The committee decided to allocate NIS 1 million for the immediate implementation for a social-community assistance program for the evacuees. Meanwhile, President Moshe Katsav, after meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Sunday night, said he was troubled about the welfare of those Gush Katif evacuees still living in tents despite the onset of winter, and hoped that the Disengagement Authority (Sela) would soon arrange permanent housing, education facilities and employment. He urged the evacuees to be cooperative and to enter into fruitful discussions with Sela. When the disengagement from Gaza was completed, Sharon said, he told the government and a special committee that he had set up that the central issue now was to resettle the evacuees while maintaining their community framework. He is committed to this, he said, and will not leave the matter alone until a solution for community resettlement is reached. As for relations with the Palestinians, Sharon said that Israel is willing to make far-reaching concessions in order to advance the political process and begin implementation of the road map, "But I will not compromise on security." Sharon said that he had no immediate plans to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and hinted that such a meeting might not come about until there is a cessation of terrorism "so that we can discuss the road map." What Katsav and Sharon were willing to acknowledge that they had talked about was Katsav's official visit next week to Rome, where he will meet with the pope and with leading political figures. Sharon said that he attached great significance to such visits and that he would encourage further visits to promote Israel's interests in Europe, Africa and South America. Three weeks after his return from Rome, the President will be flying again, this time to Ghana and Nigeria.