'Gov't failed Gaza evacuees'

Resettlement inquiry: 70% of settlers still lack housing.

Gusk Katif -Neve Dekalim 311 (photo credit: Yakov Ben-Avraham)
Gusk Katif -Neve Dekalim 311
(photo credit: Yakov Ben-Avraham)
The State of Israel failed completely in its resettlement of the Gaza and Samaria evacuees, according to the definitive report released Tuesday by the State Commission of Inquiry into the Handling by the Authorized Authorities of the Evacuees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria.
Close to five years since they were forcibly removed from their homes in August 2005, the report showed that more than 70 percent of them lack permanent housing and are living in temporary dwellings.
56 MKs: Let evacuees build in Ariel
It’s Gush Katif education week at 400 schools
“I feel worn-out from saying ‘we told you so,’ which is what we’ve been saying for five years,” said Hagit Yaron, a former Gush Katif community organizer.
At the time of the Gaza withdrawal, settlers were already complaining that the government was unprepared to relocate them and that its promises of a “solution for every evacuee” were simply untrue.
Earlier, at a Jerusalem press conference, commission chairman Eliyahu Mazza, former deputy president of the Supreme Court, said the handling of the evacuees was “an absolute, complete failure” on the part of both the government and the bureaucracy.
The panel’s 488-page report was presented Tuesday to the Knesset and to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who last year had promised the evacuees new homes within a year.
The report, which examined efforts by the government to resettle the 9,000 people removed from 21 communities in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria, documented how the state had failed to properly compensate the evacuees, resulting in a bevy of social problems for those forced to relocate.
“Five years after the evacuation, an examination of the results discloses an extremely dismal picture: Most of the evacuees are still living in temporary caravan sites; the construction of most of the permanent housing has not yet commenced; the decisive majority of the public structures in the evacuees’ new settlements have not yet been built; the rate of unemployment among the evacuees is double the rate of unemployment in the general population; the economic state of some of the evacuees is very bad, and there are more than a few among them in need of assistance from the welfare entities… it was therefore found that the work of rehabilitating the evacuees is far from completed,” the report states.
The issue of whether or not the disengagement was a wise political decision or reaped diplomatic or security benefits for the state was not investigated by the committee, which dealt solely with the rehabilitation of those evacuated.
Netanyahu says he will work to implement commission's recommendations
After receiving the report on Tuesday, Netanyahu told the commission that he would work to implement its recommendations, saying, “Our goal is to bring each one of the evacuees into their permanent homes; this is our obligation as a government.”
He added that “we will not tolerate foot-dragging.”
Mazza added that while the blame for the failure lay with the previous government, headed by Ehud Olmert, the onus for correcting the problems was upon the Netanyahu government, and “if it doesn’t find a solution to the problem, it will be an accomplice to the failure.”
Mazza and fellow commission members Dr. Shimon Ravid and Bar-Ilan University Prof. Yedidya Z. Stern said that the government failures detailed in the report boded poorly for any future resettlements – which, they noted, might not necessarily result from a diplomatic agreement. Resettlement of large numbers of people in a short time could also be required if there were a large-scale natural disaster or a sudden wave of immigration following a political development abroad.
Mazza noted that the committee hadn’t ignored the decisions made by the evacuees as the disengagement loomed, saying that “the behavior of the evacuees did, many times, contribute to their failure to rehabilitate.
This was due, to a large degree, to the decision of many people not to cooperate with authorities or let them know what they needed or what was most important to them.
“Many people refused to deal with the authorities because of their ideology,” he added. “Many believed that the disengagement wouldn’t go through; that a miracle would stop it. But the miracle didn’t come, and the disengagement happened.”
Even though the widespread refusal to cooperate with authorities was “problematic and expected,” Mazza said it did not make up for the failure of the government to accommodate the evacuees, adding that the government bore the brunt of the responsibility for the social ills caused by the disengagement.
“The government is the one that brought them out of their homes,” Mazza said.
Though the committee declined to lay blame on individuals, saying that such accusations would lead to long, drawn-out legal proceedings that would delay the implementation of the report’s findings, Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev didn’t hesitate Tuesday to name names.
'Ariel Sharon among those most to blame'
“[Former prime minister] Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, along with [the former director- general of the Prime Minister’s Office under Sharon] Ilan Cohen and [then-deputy attorney-general for civilian affairs] Sarit Dana are the most to blame,” said Orlev.
The Olmert government had been hostile toward the evacuees, he said. He called on Netanyahu to correct the problems found in the report as quickly as possible.
Orlev’s statements came during a press conference held in Jerusalem on Tuesday by the Friends of Gush Katif organization, which was marked by the theme of “we told you so.”
At the beginning of the conference, Gush Katif Evacuees Committee chairman Doron Ben-Shlomi said that “the suffering caused by the disengagement is something that no report or public discussion can change; the only thing that can help is to start our lives anew in a nicer place than where we are now.”
Yaron criticized the government for ignoring the communal lifestyle that the evacuees had been forced to leave behind, saying that “the state didn’t carry out the disengagement in a communal way; they treated us as individuals instead of as communities.”
National Union MK Uri Ariel told reporters that the report “only brings some justice” to those who were relocated in 2005.
“What have we gained from the disengagement?” he asked. “When we look at what’s going on in Gaza and in the world, we see that it was pointless.”
Ariel said he believed that following the report’s release, the public would demand that the government act right away to remedy the problems suffered by the evacuees.
“We need this for the sake of the State of Israel and its citizens,” he declared.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.