Delays in solution for Gush Katif evacuees prove costly

The cost of the government's holdups in dealing with the plight of the Gush Katif evacuees following the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip has thus far cost the state NIS 1 billion, according to a new report that was presented Tuesday to the Knesset lobby for the former Gaza residents. According to the report, issued by Prof. Ezra Sadan of Sadan-Lowental Ltd. and Prof. Yakir Plesner, the sum allotted to those evacuated when the Sinai peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982 was the equivalent of four times the compensation allotted to Gaza evacuees. The authors of the report also stated that the attempt to cut back costs had backfired and caused government expenses to rise exorbitantly, while 85 percent of evacuated families are still living in temporary residences in caravan sites. In addition, the report said, government tightfistedness has given rise to extensive unemployment. "If there were less stinginess we would not be witnessing this phenomenon," Army Radio quoted Prof. Sadan as saying. The government will sustain losses of NIS 140 million with every passing year if it fails to find a solution to the crisis, the report said, citing clumsy and ineffective treatment on the part of SELA, the disengagement authority. SELA claimed in response that some of the numbers presented by the report were inaccurate. "The figure of 30 percent unemployment is simply false. We're talking about less than half that," Army Radio quoted SELA officials as saying. Senior SELA official Adiel Shimron attributed the prohibitive costs to the authority's assent to the evacuees' request to resettle entire communities to new towns. "The government is showing responsibility by allowing communities that wish to remain within their community framework to do so," he said. "This has a heavy price."