The session was held today as a result of calls by nationalist-camp MKs, in response to the harsh report issued last week by the State Comptroller regarding the Disengagement. "The State and its institutions failed in their treatment of the expelled citizens of Gush Katif," the detailed report concluded. State Comptroller and former Judge Micha Lindenstrauss determined that the Sela (Aid for the Expellees) Administration, the Prime Minister's Office, the State Service Commission and the Finance Ministry were all at fault.
Members of the government's Disengagement team (left to right) Meli Polishuk-Bloch, Ilan Cohen, Arela Golan and Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi.
The session was held under sharp constraints. Committee Chairperson Meli Polishuk-Bloch (Shinui) announced that the session would last only two hours, as the Amona Inquiry Committee would have to begin its deliberations in that room at 11:30. The hall was packed with visitors, especially many expelled residents themselves, but only four of this group were allowed to speak. The other speakers included the Comptroller himself, Sela head Yonatan Bassi, Prime Minister's Bureau Chief Ilan Cohen, the heads of two Municipal Councils that absorbed some of the families, and of course the MKs who were present: Zevulun Orlev, Yuri Stern, Yuli Edelstein, Ophir Pines, Chaim Oron, and Arela Golan.
Comptroller Lindenstrauss told the Committee that he was proud of having completed the report in "real time," while the problems are still on-going and can be partially solved. He rebuffed the criticism of those who said the report should not have been publicized during an election campaign:
"For one thing, we said many months ago that our work would not be stopped during elections. Secondly, just as there are some people who felt that its publication now is political, there are those who felt that not publicizing it now would be political."
Lindenstrauss said that those who said the report was one-sidedly against the government ignored the "no fewer than 13 times that the report states that the residents did not cooperate with the government before the expulsion date."
Former Gaza Coast Regional Head Avner Shimoni reacted strongly to this point, saying, "As someone who was accused by the Comptroller of being blameworthy for not having cooperated, I want to say that I have no obligation to cooperate with those who come to throw me out of my home. On the other hand, just like the government knew how to bring in thousands of soldiers and policemen to deport us, it also should have been ready for us on that date - and it was not."
Chairperson Bloch noted that the residents were not "accused." She said,
"You [the residents] had the full right not to cooperate; there's nothing wrong with that. But your lack of cooperation must be taken into account when finding fault with the government's failures." She noted that the bottom line is that "today, seven months after the Disengagement, there are still many families that are living in hotels and other temporary arrangements."
The Comptroller's report described, in sharp language, the culture of decision-making that led to the crisis:
"One thing dragged along another, and things got stuck. Everyone worked with the approach of 'Trust me, it will be OK' - until it was too late... The Prime Minister [Ariel Sharon] and Finance Minister [Binyamin Netanyahu] did not steer their workers properly. The relevant ministers should have used all their influence to push things forward...
A woman expelled from her home in Gush Katif addresses the government figures responsible for her mistreatment.
One expelled farmer, Shlomo Vaserteil, in his late 50's, described the impossible situation he now faces. He said that over the course of 28 years, "I knew how to build up my farm one dunam [1/4 acre] at a time - but now, at this point in my life, I don't know how to build a 40-dunam farm. I'm not an engineer, and all the solutions that are offered to me and those of my age are not helpful."
Many of those who spoke mentioned the unemployment crisis, as well as other major difficulties the expellees continue to encounter. It was widely acknowledged that the Education Ministry had prepared a sufficient number of schools and classrooms, "but we have to look inside these classrooms," MK Orlev said. "See how little motivation there is, and how many of the students actually don't attend school, but rather spend time on street corners and the like."
"We are aware of the fact," the Lindenstrauss report states, "that the bodies that were established for the evacuation and absorption of the residents had to work in non-routine conditions, but this report shows that there were grave mistakes in their preparation, which caused harm to the evacuees and caused them unnecessary and very painful suffering."
(Photos: Josh Shamsi, Arutz-7)