Three Years of Hardship for Gush Katif Expellees
The Knesset Audit Committee is likely to support a public inquiry committee that will investigate the government's treatment of the Gush Katif expellees. Twenty housing units have been approved for former residents of the now-destroyed Gush Katif town of Shirat HaYam in Maskiyot in the Jordan Valley.
81% of Expelled Families Still Far From Permanent Homes
Three years after the Disengagement, the Knesset Audit Committee is on the way to initiating a public inquiry committee that will investigate the government's treatment of the Gush Katif expellees. The proposal follows this week's release of a report showing that 81% of expellees are still in temporary housing, among other grave findings.
A special gathering was held at the Knesset on Wednesday to mark the approaching third anniversary of the Disengagement. The results of the survey - conducted by the Brain Base Institute, headed by Prof. Yitzchak Katz, for the Gush Katif Residents Committee - were presented for the occasion.
The survey shows that of the 81% still on wheels, nearly half of them believe that it will take at least two more years - five years since their expulsion - until they are able to move to permament homes. Two-thirds of the expellees are unhappy with their temporary housing.
The numbers of unemployed are also very worrisome. Though unemployment nationwide has dropped to its lowest level in 13 years, the jobless rate among the former Gush Katif residents is 17% - 2.7 times higher than the rest of the country.
Half of those without jobs continue to seek work, but the other half were thrown against their will into the job market at an age at which they believe they will not be able to find another job, and are therefore not even looking. Nearly a third of those who worked in agriculture - a mainstay of the Gush Katif economy - are currently without work.
Maskiyot - Approved Again
Some good news has been reported, however. The government has once again approved construction of new housing for the Jordan Valley community of Maskiot, where Gush Katif expellees from Shirat HaYam are living in temporary quarters. Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced a similar decision in December 2006, but abruptly rescinded it a month later - apparently the result of international pressure not to allow Jewish construction in areas contested by the Palestinian Authority.
The radical left-wing Peace Now organization, whose goal it is to end all Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, decried the approval. A Peace Now spokesman said that the decision to allow more Jewish housing in the Jordan Valley means the eternalizing of a demographic situation that will prevent a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, said the decision was long-overdue: "I am very happy about Barak's decision to allow construction in the Jordan Valley, especially in that it will help families from Gush Katif."
Financial Situation - Bad
Other results of the above survey: Well over a third of those made homeless by the Disengagement/expulsion - 37% - describe their economic situation as bad or very bad. Of these, 40% say they require financial help from friends or relatives.
A quarter of the expelled Jews say they are using their compensation money for day-to-day living, leaving them little or nothing with which to build houses to replace the ones the government razed to the ground.
The survey shows negative feeling towards the government, army, and even among their immediate families. The expellees' physical and psychological health has been negatively affected as well.
About a quarter perceive a desire among the youth not to enlist in the IDF. About half sense a drop in their physical health directly related to the Disengagement - including depression, sleeplessness, fears and various sicknesses. Over half - 55% - have required psychological help during the last three years.
Nearly 30% report a deterioration in relations between immediate family members, while 45% say they are pessimistic about their future.
Government Tries Damage Control
To counter the numbers, the government's Disengagement Authority, known as Sela, released its own report, claiming that 72% of the expelled families had "implemented a solution for the construction of their new homes."
Moti Sender, editor of the Katif.net site, responded, "Thousands of evictees living in deteriorating, temporary 'caravillas' for three years already, look at each other in disbelief. This is called 'implementing a permanent home'?"
MK Uri Ariel, Chairman of the Knesset lobby for the Gush Katif expellees, said, "If the picture is so rosy, why is Sela still around? Why doesn't it reduce its work force to 20%? The true picture is very grave, and I call upon every Israeli to come to the temporary housing sites and see for himself."