Gov't tries to learn lessons from pullout

With 50 evacuees still living out of suitcases in hotel rooms some nine months after disengagement, government officials met Wednesday to learn about the successes and failures of the evacuation of 1,750 families. This was the first in a series of meetings with an eye toward improving the process should further withdrawals be necessary. "It was the start of the process," said a spokeswoman for Ilan Cohen, outgoing director-general of the Prime Minister's Office. He and Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi were responsible for the technical details of the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and four communities in northern Samaria. Both men were present at the meeting even though they are leaving their posts. Cohen leaves next Monday and will be replaced by Ra'anan Dinur. Bassi plans to leave as soon as a replacement is found. But both men will be at future meetings in an advisory capacity, said the spokeswoman. The authority reported that more than 80 percent of the families chose to move with neighbors from communities rather than striking out on their own. With 1,400 families living in temporary dwellings, officials discussed the fact that the government's next "challenge is to lead these communities to permanent housing while maintaining these frameworks," said the spokeswoman. The authority also reported that some 3,500 claims for compensation have been dealt with, with 1,200 families receiving full compensation. Staff members from the different ministries involved in the disengagement also looked at ways to improve coordination between different governmental offices and with the settlers. Outside the meeting, Bassi told the media that any further withdrawals would have to be done in stages, rather than in one fell swoop like that which occurred last summer. A senior government source said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also believes that further withdrawals would have to be done in stages. "Definitely not all at once," he said. The situation with Olmert's "convergence" plan is different in that the goal is to consolidate settlers into blocs rather than leaving an entire area, he said. Not everyone is waiting for a formal evaluation of the lessons of disengagement or for decisions by Olmert. MKs Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) and Colette Avital (Labor) have filed an early compensation bill. The two sent a letter to Justice Minister Haim Ramon (Kadima) asking that he bring it to the Knesset floor without waiting the standard 45 days. If it passes, it would allow the approximately 80,000 people living outside the security fence to receive compensation should they chose to move inside it in advance of any government decision with regard to further territorial withdrawal, Vilan said. He and Avital are part of the One House movement, which is working to help such families relocate. Under the bill's provisions, the government would purchase the vacated homes from the families for a sum that would allow them to purchase a similar home elsewhere. Government ownership would prevent protesters from moving into the homes, Vilan said. He believes some 25 percent of settlers living outside the security fence are ready to move and that another 50% are interested in exploring the option.