Sela has not been effective in resettling Gush Katif evacuees, Mazuz acknowledges to state inquiry

Sela has not been effect

Menahem Mazuz said Wednesday he could not claim that Sela, the government unit established to help resettle the Gush Katif evacuees, had been established in the best possible way or that it had been effective in fulfilling its mission. Mazuz was testifying before the State Commission of Inquiry into the Handling by the Authorized Authorities of the Evacuees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. He faced tough questioning from the members of the committee, which is headed by retired Supreme Court justice Eliahu Mazza and includes Dr. Shimon Ravid and Prof. Yedidya Stern. Stern asked Mazuz why, four-and-a-half years after the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, 90 percent of the evacuees were still not living in their permanent homes. Ravid told the attorney-general that the government should have postponed the evacuation because it was already clear that it could not live up to its timetable for resettling the evacuees. He added that the government should have given greater financial compensation to evacuees who found their own solutions, and that it should only have agreed to allow evacuees who wanted to live together in new communities to settle where the state needed them, rather than wherever they wanted. Mazuz compared the period around the evacuation to the time leading up to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. "We all remember that there was a concrete and justified fear as to whether the State of Israel was going to face a situation in which the government of Israel passes a resolution, the Knesset approves it, but the authorized institutions are unable to implement it." The fear had been aroused by calls to disobey orders of all kinds from all sorts of groups, he continued. It had increased as a result of widespread disturbances throughout the country. "I think the high point was reached in Kfar Maimon, when tens of thousands of people assembled near the Gaza Strip and threatened to block the evacuation," said Mazuz. "We were one step away from sedition." The commission also questioned the attorney-general about a special committee established in the Sela Administration for Assistance to Settlers from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria, that was outside the Disengagement Compensation Law. Mazuz explained that the committee had been created to deal with the residents of four unrecognized settlements in the Gaza Strip, including Tal Katifa, Shirat Hayam and Kfar Yam. He told the committee that these residents could not be compensated according to the law, because they had been living in the Gaza Strip illegally. To compensate them would have been to set a dangerous precedent, he maintained. But the panel charged that the special committee had not behaved generously. "The committee was crazy and had no boundaries," said Stern. "On the other hand, it acted overly cautiously." On many occasions, charged Ravid, Sela did not act properly. For example, a businessman was given compensation for all the years he worked, except for one in which he lost money, even though the losses were due to the security situation in the Gaza Strip that year. In another case, a woman who married and set up her own household two months after the cut-off date, was denied compensation, even though she had been born and lived her entire life in the Gaza Strip. Mazuz said he'd had very little to do with the resettlement of the evacuees or the drafting of the Disengagement Compensation Law. A statement issued later by a committee representing the Gush Katif settlers charged that like many other government officials, Mazuz had refused to accept responsibility for the failure to resettle the evacuees.