Sela head: Gaza evacuees could have been in permanent homes by now

Zvia Shimon says gov't housing solutions were offered at the time.

Neveh Dekalim 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Neveh Dekalim 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
All 1,090 evacuee families from the Gaza Strip who wanted to live communally could have been living in their permanent homes by now had they accepted the government housing solutions offered at the time, while continuing to fight for the other terms they wanted, Zvia Shimon, head of the Disengagement Administration (Sela), said Monday. Shimon has served as head of Sela since July 2, 2006. She was the second witness to be called up before the State Commission of Inquiry into the Handling of the Evacuees from Gush Katif by the Authorized Authorities. Her predecessor, Yonatan Bassi, testified on Sunday. "On many occasions the evacuees did not agree to the [government] proposal," Shimon told the commission, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Eliyahu Mazza. "I told them hundreds of times to build their houses right away, but first they wanted the government to grant their other demands in the written agreement." Another member of the commission, Prof. Yedidya Stern, asked Shimon if the evacuees' additional demands were reasonable. "Sometimes they were, other times they were exaggerated," replied Shimon. The law did not provide for some of the demands they made, she added in response to another question by Stern. Shimon said all the evacuees have received compensation payments for the homes they lost in the Gaza Strip. Of 1,090 families who want to live within the same communal structure as they did in Gush Katif, 741 also have their plots of land, including the infrastructure needed to build their homes. That means there is nothing stopping them from building today, she added. But not all of them are. For example, 190 families from Nitzan received their plots of land in October 2008 and 70 are currently in the process of building their homes, she continued. "Why are only some of them building?" asked one of the panel members. "An evacuee told me that one of the most difficult days he has experienced since the evacuation was the day he started building his new home, because on that day he gave up his dream to return to Gaza," replied Shimon. However, she added that the psychological reason was not the only one. Some of the evacuees had tied up the compensation money they had received and others had been using it to live on over the three years and nine months since the unilateral withdrawal. She said 129 families have already signed the contracts for their new homes and are waiting for the infrastructure work to be finished. Another 30 have received plots and opted to do the infrastructure work by themselves. All the families had reached agreement with the government on the location they would be moving to, she said.