MKs cooperate on lobby for evacuees

Elkin (Kadima), Ariel (NU) to address problems of housing and employment.

zeev elkin 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
zeev elkin 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a show of solidarity on behalf of Gaza evacuees, opposition and coalition MKs agreed on Monday night to work together in an expanded lobby on the settlers' behalf. On Wednesday, MK Zeev Elkin (Kadima) and MK Uri Ariel (National Union) plan to hold a meeting in the Knesset of MKs and evacuees to tackle anew the problems of housing and employment. Some nine months after disengagement, with about 50 families still living in hotels and 1,400 residing in temporary homes, Neveh Dekalim evacuee Dror Vanunu said that evacuees still have a long way to go to until their lives are back on track. Vanunu said he was not surprised to find himself living in a modular home nine months after his evacuation. "I expected it to be a long process with a lot of problems. We know what bureaucracy is in Israel," he said. Now as people turn from finding temporary dwellings to concern over their permanent ones, evacuees fear they will be stuck in this in-between stage, said Vanunu, who is one of the leaders of the Gush Katif Committee that works to improve conditions for the evacuees. "One of the main problems is that today we need to negotiate with six or seven different offices," said Vanunu. On top of that, with the new government taking the reins, many of the key figures are shifting. Vanunu said evacuees have already spoken with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and with Ra'anan Dinur, who is the new director-general of the Prime Minister's Office. "We hope the new government is planning to set a high priority to the treatment of Gush Katif refugees," said Vanunu. He added that he believed they knew the government needed to solve the problem of the Gaza evacuees if it planned to move forward with any more withdrawals. To mark the passage of nine months since the evacuation his committee released a set of figures regarding housing and employment. While some of the numbers differ from that of the government, everyone agrees that there is still a lot of work to be done. "Unemployment statistics combined with delays in payment of compensation to those torn from their homes, farms and businesses have a devastating effect on those hundreds of families who not long ago were self-supporting," said Vanunu. Among the vast discrepancies between his statistics and those of the government is the number of compensation claims received. Disengagement Authority spokesman Haim Altman told The Jerusalem Post that some 1,200 families out of 1,750 had received their full funds, whereas Vanunu said that only 58.4 percent had been compensated for housing. Vanunu added that most of the businesses and farmers have not received any payment. Altman said that out of the 252 business and agrarian files, some form of payment had been made in 100 instances. Overall, he said, the government has paid out some NIS 1.4 billion in compensation funds. "It's clear there are many problems that still have not been dealt with," Elkin said. He has already been active on behalf of the evacuees. Elkin added that he believed he had a responsibility to help the evacuees, given that as a politician he supported withdrawals necessary to redraw Israel's borders. He has already met with some of the evacuee leaders including Lior Kalfa and with Disengagement Authority director Yonatan Bassi. It was important to Elkin and the evacuees to have opposition and coalition members in the lobby to show that the fate of the evacuees is a concern to those on both sides of the debate. After the discord and division that accompanied the disengagement last year, "this should be a subject that binds people together," said Elkin.