Seven months after the disengagement, 160 families from the evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip still live in hotel rooms but are due to move into temporary housing in the coming days, Yonatan Bassi, head of the Disengagement Authority (Sela) told the Knesset State Audit Committee on Monday.
The committee convened to discuss two recent reports on the disengagement process by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in which he slammed the government and Sela for poor and inefficient organization and implementation of its responsibilities in the evacuation.
Dozens of former Gaza Strip settlers attended the meeting and complained bitterly that they did not have jobs, their new communities lacked youth centers and other social services, and that the compensation they had received from the government according to the Disengagement Compensation Law was insufficient.
Sela was established by the government on June 6, 2004 to help the 1,750 families destined to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements reestablish themselves in new homes and communities. Lindenstraus said the performance of Sela, the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry had been unsatisfactory so far.
Ilan Cohen, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office and a pivotal figure in the disengagement, told the committee, "we worked ceaselessly to carry out one of the most complex projects ever. The bottom line is that not a single person has been left without a roof over his head." He added that the construction of 1,300 temporary housing solutions for the settlers in such a short period of time "is unparalleled." According to Cohen, the government was forced to make many decisions in real time on the basis of incomplete information.
"We had to walk "a thin line" between not wasting the public's money and looking after the needs of the settlers," he said. The decisions were even harder to make because they had to be made on the spot in conditions of great uncertainty. For example, Sela had to reserve hotel rooms for NIS 1,000 per night for settlers who had no other immediate accommodation without knowing how many families would want to stay in them. While it was deciding to rent the rooms, settlement leaders reportedly claimed the settlers would live in tents and refuse to accept any help from the government.
Sela head Bassi announced that the government, in conjunction with the settlers, had completed the plans for the permanent resettlement of all of the evacuees who wanted to continue living together as a community. About 1,300 families, or 80 percent of the total number, wanted to live together with their former neighbors. Another 340 have already found their own permanent solutions. Sixty more are living in mobile homes on the plots of land where their permanent housing will be built.