By RON FRIEDMAN
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin addressed the plight of those forced to leave their homes during the 2005 Gaza disengagement, at a conference held at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya on Thursday.
"We cannot disavow the Gush Katif problem. The government simply has to take care of it," said Rivlin. "We will not rest until we find a real and just solution to the problem and take steps toward healing the suffering of the people who paid the price of the national trauma that we all experienced."
In September, an investigation committee charged with examining the government's treatment of the evacuees came out with an interim report, which stated that the government was responsible for a series of mishandlings that had served to extend the suffering of those evacuated in the unilateral disengagement.
The committee criticized the government institutions for their lack of urgency on the matter and called to reinvigorate efforts to find permanent solutions for the evacuated communities.
"The State of Israel suffered a national trauma, but those who paid for it most dearly were the ones who accepted the decisions of the majority, even as they spread ashes on their heads and mourned their loss," said Rivlin.
He added that though many thought the disengagement was wrong to begin with, it was now time to see how to reimburse those who had suffered -and in the fastest and most efficient way possible - so as to avoid the continued suffering of those expelled, who have faced high unemployment, lack of permanent housing, and family corrosion.
Kadima MK Ze'ev Bielski said that in his former position as head of the Jewish Agency, he had toured the world and proudly spoken about Israel's accomplishments.
"But along with those achievements, we've built a mountain of bureaucracy that we cannot overcome," said Bielski, noting that the evacuees' honorable restraint placed a moral debt on the Jewish people.
"It places the onus on us to at least return to them the dignity that was taken from them," he said.
Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, the representative of the Gush Katif evacuees, warned that their treatment was a symptom of the loss of solidarity among Israelis, and that society had to return to the values of mutual accountability.
"That, together with our faith, is what has protected us as a people," said Kaminetzky.
Benzion Lieberman, head of the Tnufa council - the body formerly known as the Sela Administration, charged with overseeing the resettlement of the evacuees - said there was a gap between the rhetoric used by politicians and the government's actions on the ground.
"Israel has a problem with bureaucracy, but we have seen, for example, with the security barrier that when we really want to, we can accomplish things quickly. The Israeli governments have not done all that they can to bring about solutions," said Lieberman.
He called for a sincere effort on the part of all state institutions to move ahead on providing these solutions.
"What is needed is bypass methods," he said. "Things need to be done according to the law, certainly, but we must find ways to get around issues in order to find quick solutions."
Lieberman hinted that one possible reason for state officials' hesitancy was fear of setting precedents for possible future evacuations.
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