New legislation to help Gaza evacuees

Law on establishment of communities for evacuees passed by broad base of multi-party support.

evacuees in hotel 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy [file])
evacuees in hotel 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
After over two years of silence regarding the fate of Gaza and Samaria residents evacuated as part of the 2005 Disengagement Plan, a new strategy aimed at focusing on the Knesset and not the government has led to the debate of three key pieces of new legislation to meet their needs in these final weeks of the winter session. In the past week, a major law regarding the establishment of new neighborhoods and communities passed its final reading with a broad base of multi-party support, sponsored by 62 MKs from Kadima, Labor, Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu, the Gil Pensioners Party, United Torah Judaism and the National Union/National Religious Party. One day later, the Knesset approved in its preliminary reading a second bill, this one proposed by NU-NRP faction chairman Uri Ariel, to establish a government-sponsored center to commemorate the 21 Gaza communities evacuated in the summer of 2005. A third bill, still in preparatory stages, will seek to find ways to aid the many former Gaza residents whose livings were based upon agriculture. The series of legislation is part of a new strategy, said Doron Ben-Shlomi, the chairman of the Council of Gush Katif Residents. Ben-Shlomi said that experience over the past two years proved that solving evacuees' problems through negotiation with the government was not successful. In the past half-year, he said, representatives of the evacuees in the Knesset have been working to prepare legislation in the areas in which negotiations had become "stuck." Many of the MKs signed on to the bills and supporting them do not come from the traditional right-wing backbone of the settler movement. Instead, the bills have enjoyed a broad base of support from a wide range of parties. "This topic has crossed political lines. Everybody wants to help," said Ben-Shlomi. "Many understand that these people have been done a great injustice. There are those who feel that it is the government's responsibility to solve the problems because of the expulsion, and there are also those who support these bills on the basis of humanity." Ben-Shlomi described the three bills currently in the Knesset as "a start, the beginning of setting things in motion" but acknowledged that there were still many obstacles ahead of the Gush Katif lobby. After initial successes in the first series of votes, Ben-Shlomi said that more legislation concerning the Gaza evacuees was likely to be seen in coming Knesset sessions.