'Israel mishandling Gush Katif evacuees'

State comptroller cites "lack of logistical work" and says authorities are exhibiting "insensitivity."

nitzan caravilla 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
nitzan caravilla 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Three-and-a-half years after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, two-thirds of the 8,500 evacuees are still living in temporary housing sites, and the move-in date for their permanent housing is still far off, according to a report filed Wednesday by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. In response, the Knesset's State Control Committee decided to form an official committee of inquiry to investigate shortcomings and failures in the treatment and resettlement of the evacuees. Lindenstrauss's report found serious deficiencies and delays in dealing with permanent housing solutions. A total of 95 percent of the Jewish former Gaza residents who had requested to join "communal housing" similar to the makeup of their settlement communities remain without permanent housing, the report found. In all, two-thirds of the Gaza evacuees have asked to be resettled in such communities. "The evicted families paid a heavy price following the disengagement, and continue to pay it even today," the report states. "The process of relocating them could still take years." In contrast, most of the families who chose to be resettled individually after receiving a lump sum in government compensation for their homes have found housing, the report found. The report placed most of the blame on the government body charged with dealing with the evacuation of the Gaza settlers - known by its Hebrew acronym, SELA - castigating the groundwork it did ahead of the pullout as both "partial" and "lacking depth." "The lack of proper preparatory work is a significant flaw [that] caused great misery and harm to the evacuees, and cost the state financially," the report said. "Sela did not properly check in advance the residents' preferences in terms of where they wanted and were suited to live, the status of the land at the designated sites, and the costs of the various projects," the report stated. In the report, the state comptroller also cited unnecessary bureaucratic delays in dealing with relocating the evacuees to permanent housing, due to wrangling between the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Defense Ministry over who was responsible for the issue. He said that many of the evacuees in the temporary housing solutions known as "caravillas" or pre-fab homes were living "in a state of despair" due to poor infrastructure conditions. "The structures are characterized by severe infrastructure faults, including wet walls, broken floor tiles, and frequent power outages," the report stated. The report suggested that responsibility for the upkeep of the temporary housing sites be transferred to the Construction and Housing Ministry. The report also cited government delays in paying compensation for businesses that were evacuated, noting that three years was "a long time" to pay out such compensation. The government paid out NIS 735 million in such funds by the end of 2007. On the positive side, Lindenstrauss noted that the authorities responsible for welfare services had carried out their job professionally, hired high-quality workers and invested significantly in helping the expelled citizens. "The test of the real end of the evacuation project is the proper rehabilitation of the evacuees in their new communities, so that they do not become a needy, dependent and weak part of the population," the comptroller concluded. A spokeswoman for SELA said the government body could not comment on the report, as it had not received an advance copy and had gotten it only after journalists and lawmakers. She added that "there were solutions" for all 1,100 families who sought to be resettled together. MK Zevulun Orlev, who initiated the inquiry committee's establishment following the report's publication, said that "the state comptroller's report proves what we all know: The disengagement was not just a security disaster, but a moral injustice. "In contrast to the fallacious slogans of the government, almost none of the [Gaza] settlers have a [housing] solution, and now all the residents of southern Israel are living under the 'Color Red' [rocket siren]," he said. The decision to establish the inquiry committee passed by a vote of 7-1.