MKs vote to establish state commission of inquiry on Gaza evacuees

disengagement 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [archive])
disengagement 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [archive])
The Knesset State Control Committee voted on Wednesday to establish a state commission of inquiry into the government's handling of the resettlement of settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank in the disengagement of 2005. "If 10,000 people were expelled and the government has abandoned them, this cannot be ignored," committee chairman Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) said. "The Knesset majority raised its hand in favor of expelling these people and the Knesset majority must now look after them." Nine MKs voted to establish a state commission of inquiry, three were opposed and two abstained. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss told the committee he supported the establishment of the commission. Lindenstrauss published a special report on disengagement in March 2006. On Wednesday, he said, "I can't tell you that the report was implemented. Some of the recommendations have not been carried out. Ten thousand people are presently in severe crisis. This is not a political matter. It involves everyone. We must find a solution." MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) accused Lindenstrauss of intervening in a political matter. The state comptroller rejected the accusation. Vilan charged that the establishment of a state commission of inquiry was "cheap populism." The proposal to establish a commission was raised by MK Amira Dotan (Kadima), who headed a subcommittee for more than two years to monitor progress in the resettlement of the evacuees in wake of the state comptroller's report. Dotan said she believed all along that to solve the problems, there must be constant dialogue between the government and the evacuees. She blamed the government for not conducting such a dialogue. "I reached the conclusion that the government regards the evacuees as being on the other side of the barricade instead of seeing them as being as one," she told The Jerusalem Post after the vote. "The government must find solutions, primarily because of the trauma that was caused to these people by the fact that they were taken from their homes. They are not enemies of the government." Dotan said the government had had all the information about the settlers before disengagement and that Israel had much experience in planning two steps ahead. "Yet here we are, three years later and some of the things that should have happened have not happened." According figures released by the Prime Minister's Office earlier this month, construction work on the evacuees' permanent homes is ongoing in only seven of the 24 communal sites where 1,113 of the families want to settle. Only 7 percent to 8% of those families have actually started to build. Most of those families still remain in modular homes, even though the government said in 2005 that the resettlement process would take two years. Evacuee Dror Vanunu told the Post that only about 35 families had finished their homes and an additional 32 were working on them. Ra'anan Dinur, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, told the State Control Committee he was not against establishing a commission of inquiry. "We in the government have nothing to hide," he said. "Good things will come of this as long as the issue is examined according to professional standards. For a long time now, we have been hoping for someone who will play the role of the 'responsible adult' regarding the question of Gush Katif." But Dinur blamed the evacuees for some of the problems they faced. For example, while 72% of the families had chosen their building plots, 28% had not done so for their own reasons. For example, Dinur said the families who were due to build their homes in Nitzanim had refused to take part in the lottery to determine which plot they get because they insist on first knowing whether Nitzanim will belong to the city of Ashkelon or to the Hof Ashkelon regional council. It was a statement that was disputed by Vanunu, who told the Post he lived near the site and that it was not yet ready for the construction of private homes. Dinur also charged that initiatives such as the appointment of a state commission of inquiry would only delay solutions because the evacuees would stall in the hope of getting better terms. Meanwhile, the Committee of the Gush Katif Evacuees released a study conducted by Ma'agar Mohot demonstrating the stress under which the evacuees are living. For example, 74% described their economic circumstances as "poor" or "very poor." Seventy-eight percent said they were afraid they would not have enough money to build their new home. Fifty-five percent said they had sought psychological help. Fifty-percent said that in the last three years their lives had changed for the worse and 85% of these blamed it on 2005's disengagement. Vanunu welcomed the news of the commission of inquiry. "We believe that it is an important step taken by the government," he said. It demonstrated the shift in political attitude that at first blamed the evacuees for the slow process, he said. "It shows that the government failed in providing a solution to the people of Gush Katif." It proves what the evacuees have always known, that the government was prepared for the evacuation but not for the resettlement, Vanunu said. Still, even as he felt vindicated by the creation of the commission, he worried that it would delay the process of resettlement. Avi Farhan, who heads a group of evacuees that is due to settle in Kibbutz Neveh Yam, said he has been waiting for one-and-a-half years to move to his new home. He told the Post that as a veteran of two "expulsions" he had learned that the first step toward rehabilitation took place when an evacuee began to live in his permanent home. Supporting the motion to establish the commission were Orlev, Michael Eitan (Likud), Moshe Sharoni (Justice to the Elderly), Dotan, Avraham Michaeli (Shas), Limor Livnat (Likud), Avraham Litzman (United Torah Judaism), Michael Nudelman (Kadima) and David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu). Opposed were Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), Hanna Sweid (Hadash) and Yohanan Plessner (Kadima). Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Shakib Shanan abstained. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.