Gov't extends Sela activities by a year

Netanyahu reiterates Gaza disengagement has turned territory into a Hamas base controlled by Iran.

kfar darom disengagement 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
kfar darom disengagement 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria should never have happened, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday, as he vowed never to withdraw unilaterally from territory held by Israel. "We will not repeat this mistake," Netanyahu said. He promised to do more to help the 2005 evacuees and plans to visit some of the temporary sites where they live on Monday. After he spoke, the cabinet voted to extend the mandate of the Disengagement Authority through 2010. The previous government had voted to close it down at the end of this year. "What was done can not be undone," Netanyahu told his ministers. "We can only conduct genuine introspection and say that the unilateral evacuation from the Gaza Strip brought neither peace nor security. To my regret the opposite occurred." Since Israel withdrew from Gaza, Netanyahu said, "it became a Hamas base under Iranian control, from which thousands of missiles have been fired." In the future, he said, "We want multilateral agreements based on two basic components: One, the genuine recognition of the State of Israel, and two - of course - security arrangements, the honoring and enforcement of which will be assured." Neither of these elements were in place when Israel unilaterally left 21 settlements in Gaza and destroyed four settlements in northern Samaria. He added that "recognition and genuine demilitarization will find expression in, and be integral parts of, the peace arrangements." Kadima Party head Tzipi Livni, however, defended the disengagement as she toured the Negev along with her faction on Sunday. Removing the settlements from Gaza was the correct move historically and security-wise, she said, adding there was no dispute that if Israel ever reached an agreement, the Jewish communities would not remain there. "On the other hand, every government must help the evacuees restore their lives as they were in the past, and I include myself in that, as a minister in the government that decided on the disengagement and still thinks that it was correct." Disengagement, she said, had improved Israel's standing in the international community. "We need to separate between the Jewish settlement that there was in Gaza and Israel's security needs. The Jewish communities there were never intended to improve Israeli security," she said. At the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu asked Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) who heads the ministerial team dealing with the evacuees, to submit recommendations for the full rehabilitation of those who were pulled out of their homes in the summer of 2005. According to numbers given the cabinet by the Disengagement Authority during the meeting, only 250 families who plan to live in 23 new communities set by the government for the evacuees have actually built or are working on building new homes. Out of the 1,112 families who want to move to those communities, 926 have received plots, but of these, 676 have yet to start to building. Settlers said that many of these families are stuck in the lengthy planning and approval processes to obtain their building permits and that others lack the funds to build. The authority said that overall, 1,402 families were eligible for housing compensation in communal settings, but that many of the remaining 290 families had sought individual solutions. The overall cost of the disengagement has come to NIS 10 billion so far, out of which NIS 4.8 billion was spent on direct compensation to the evacuees and NIS 891 million was spent on hotel rooms to house the evacuees in the months following the pullout. Additional money was spent on creating the 23 new communities for the evacuees as well as on security matters relating to disengagement. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.