PMO gets high marks on Gaza evacuees

PMO gets high marks for

Speakers at a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday gave high marks to the Prime Minister's Office for its actions over the past few weeks to help solve the problems of the Gush Katif evacuees. Committee chairman Yoel Hasson convened the meeting to keep an eye on the government's implementation of recommendations included in an interim report published September 29 by the State Commission of Inquiry into the Handling by the Authorities of the Evacuees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. The commission set deadlines for the government to achieve key goals. In one case, for example, four groups of settlers who want to live together are still unable to reach agreement with the villages to which they want to move. The commission has given the government until December 31 to resolve the problems. Although various ministries are responsible for different aspects of the resettlement program, the Prime Minister's Office has overall responsibility for coordinating the work of the ministries and resolving disagreements among them. During the meeting, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said that "there has been a dramatic change in the Prime Minister's Office. The ministry director-general has held many meetings, and it has not been all talk." Benzion Lieberman, who took over on Sunday as head of the Sela Administration for Assistance to Settlers from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, told the committee that he was convinced "the Prime Minister's Office intends to treat the resettlement as a national project. The director-general of the Prime Minister's Office has set aside a great deal of his time for meetings on this matter." The director-general, Eyal Gabai, said that his top priority was to complete the construction of permanent housing for the former settlers. Only a small fraction of the houses have been completed so far, even though the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza took place more than four years ago. However, Gabai refused to say whether he would be able to complete all the goals listed in the commission's interim report by the deadlines it had set. The three members of the commission - retired Supreme Court justice Eliahu Mazza, Prof. Yedidya Stern and Dr. Shimon Ravid - attended the committee meeting. Mazza said that if the government failed to carry out its missions on time, the commission would deal with that fact in its final report, which, among other things, would single out those responsible for the alleged failure to resettle the evacuees up until now. "We are sticking to the demands we made in the interim report," said Mazza. "We are certain that with goodwill and effort, all the obstacles can be overcome. Other government ministries must act like the Prime Minister's Office. Things have started off not at all badly." State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, whose preliminary report on the resettlement of the evacuees ultimately led to the state commission of inquiry, told the committee that too much time had passed since disengagement, and now it was time to "stop talking and start doing." Hasson announced that he would establish a subcommittee to monitor the government's efforts to implement the commission's recommendations and that in three months, he would invite all the directors-general of the ministry involved in the resettlement of the evacuees to a special meeting to report on progress and discuss the problems that still existed.