State may probe treatment of Gaza evacuees

Disengagement Authority, PMO say they'll cooperate; c'tee would probe how funds were appropriated.

nitzan caravilla 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
nitzan caravilla 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
The Knesset State Control Committee will vote next week on a proposal to establish a state commission of inquiry to examine the paper trail of the funds earmarked for those evacuated during 2005's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and part of northern Samaria, MK Amira Dotan (Kadima) said Wednesday. Doran spoke at a meeting of the Knesset Forum for Gush Katif Evacuees that was held to mark the third anniversary of disengagement. She said she decided to call for the investigation after legislators "had exhausted all of the other parliamentary tools at our disposal." In a statement released to the media, the Disengagement Authority and the Prime Minister's Office said that they both planned to cooperate with the committee or in fact any group that planned to investigate the treatment of the evacuees. But the Authority warned that it also expected any investigatory body would also explore "the actions of the parliamentarians that made false promises to the evacuees and in so doing, delayed the process." In a press conference held Tuesday, the Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office Ra'anan Dinur cautioned the media against false statements that would be made by parliamentarians with respect to the treatment of the evacuees. A state commission of inquiry - appointed at the behest of the Knesset's State Control Committee - is the highest level of investigative committee that can be established. Dotan's announcement was met with enthusiasm by many of the Gush Katif evacuees who were present in the room. MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union/National Religious Party), chairman of the State Control Committee, said the committee would vote on the proposal next Wednesday, and that he already had a solid majority to approve the measure. Orlev warned, however, that after Dotan's announcement, the government was likely to pressure committee members to abstain in the vote. Nevertheless, Orlev remained confident that the measure would pass. "We have no choice but to establish this probe because the government has proved to be obtuse and has disseminated lies [regarding aid to evacuees]," Orlev said. He said establishment of a commission would be the most drastic step that Knesset members could take to force the government to address the problems facing evacuees. The process is expected to go quickly - immediately after the vote on Wednesday, Orlev plans on sending the requisite letter to Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch requesting her to appoint commission members. The appointment process usually takes a number of days; during that time, Orlev will write the formal request for funding for the commission, to be submitted to Knesset director-general Avi Balashnikov. Should the Knesset vote go as planned, the commission could be up and running before the High Holy Days. After that, the length of time until the commission delivers its conclusions is dependant on its mandate. "If we reach, together with the evacuees, an understanding that it is more important to ask what the state needs to do to find solutions to evacuees' problems than to delve into the history and come up with 'personal conclusions' about who is responsible, the commission will complete its work more quickly," Orlev said. "It is important to me to reveal all of the bad intentions and neglect on the part of people in the government, but it is even more important to find solutions to the evacuees' problems than to make political hay," he said. On Tuesday it was revealed that only 7 percent to 8% of the evacuees have begun building permanent homes, according to statistics released by the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday. Out of 24 new communal sites where the ex-Gaza residents will live, work is ongoing at only seven, PMO director-general Ra'anan Dinur said. Looking back over the past four years of the Disengagement Authority's operation, he acknowledged that "we made mistakes. If you ask if today we would have done it better, yes we would have." Dinur said he was proud that the authority was now doing its best to provide the evacuees with solutions they wanted.