PMO refutes report on disengagement

Comptroller report says gov't gave little help absorbing evacuees from Gaza.

Ganei Tal 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ganei Tal 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Refuting charges in the state comptroller's report on disengagement released in March, Prime Minister's Office Director-General Ra'anan Dinur on Tuesday defended the government's activities on behalf of Gaza evacuees. The report alleged that the Prime Minister's Office and a number of ministries mishandled the absorption of the 1,700 families pulled out of Gaza and four communities in northern Samaria last August. During a four-hour meeting of the Comptroller's Committee in the Knesset that was often heated, Dinur accused the State Comptroller's Office of presenting inconsistent information in the report. "It's as if two different people wrote it. I don't know what one could learn from this report," said Dinur, who entered his post last month. In defending the report, Shmuel Golan, deputy director-general of the State Comptroller's Office, responded, "The facts speak for themselves." Ganei Tal evacuee Shoshi Sluztky, who attended the meeting, said, "We know very well what the problems are. We don't need to read a book about them. We are the living book." Golan on Tuesday accused the government of not transferring the funds necessary to help the local authorities absorb the families, thus forcing them to use their own funds to help the evacuees. "In short, the local authorities did it all themselves, with little help from the government," Golan said. Hof Ashkelon Regional Council head Shimon Cohen said the government only began repaying him in November, some three months after evacuated families arrived in his area last August. He added that he has yet to be repaid for the NIS 4-5 million he has spent on services for the evacuees since January. "I haven't seen a single agora," he told committee members. Even worse than the lack of funds, Cohen said, was the absence of a responsible address for his concerns. "I don't even know who to turn to," he said. Cohen said he was particularly concerned because he had yet to receive guidelines on summer programs for children. Dinur admitted that the reimbursement process had been too slow. "If you ask me, could the money have been freed faster, the answer is yes," Dinur admitted. But, "neither the Disengagement Authority nor the Prime Minister's Office can be blamed for the central problem which is the poor relationship between the local authority and the government which is problematic above and beyond disengagement," he added. Ashkelon Mayor Roni Mehatzri also accused the government of abandoning his city when problems arose with the hastily constructed utilities at the largest absorption site of Nitzan, which abuts Ashkelon. Evacuees at the meeting put forward a long list of issues, including lack of services for children at risk, problems with businesses reimbursements and unemployment - which, they said, stood at about 51 percent. In particular, they said there should be special programs to help those over 45 find jobs. One evacuee stood up and charged in anger and despair, "we have been reduced to nothing." MK Ami Ayalon (Labor) suggested that retroactive changes be made to the Disengagement Implementation Law. But Dinur said he didn't feel that the law needed to be changed. Still, Dinur said he had plans to restructure the manner in which the Disengagement Authority services the evacuees. Golan said that the comptroller intended to issue at least two more reports on the handling of the evacuees, including plans for constructing their permanent homes and the storage of their possessions.