Gush Katif farmer compensated 800,000 shekels

Farmer's lawyer explains how he defeated draconian law meant to absolve state of responsibility for property loss.

Shimon Cohen,

Gush Katif expulsion (file)
Gush Katif expulsion (file)
Eliad Levy

Over a decade since the 2005 Disengagement plan that expelled all Jews from Gaza, a long legal battle has come to an end, finally granting farmer Shlomo Wasserteil a measure of justice for his property that was lost by the state - in the form of roughly 800,000 shekels (over $200,000).

Wasserteil, who currently serves as director of the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem, sued the state after the disappearance of three shipping containers storing large amounts of agricultural equipment that the state had obligated itself to evacuate from Gush Katif.

Arutz Sheva spoke with Wasserteil's lawyer, Attorney Yuval Ganan, who is a member of the Legal Forum for Israel, and who revealed the draconian laws meant to absolve the state of all responsibility in such cases of loss.

Ganan said the incident arose in the days following the expulsion of Jewish families from Gush Katif but before the region was entirely closed to all Jewish presence. There was an effort in that period to save the massive amount of equipment left behind in the forced expulsion.

The state provided storage containers to those who were expelled so as to remove their property from Gush Katif, and Wasserteil took out several containers to save his equipment. Wasserteil and other farmers were able to receive special permits to enter Gush Katif in the mornings so as to get their equipment out.

However, "one day when he arrived there he discovered that three of the containers had disappeared," said Ganan. When he discovered that three of the containers loaded with expensive agricultural equipment were gone, he submitted a complaint after checking with the relevant IDF commanders.

"The complaint was registered but nothing happened," related his lawyer. Seven years after the expulsion, Wasserteil submitted a lawsuit against the state demanding compensation for the loss of his property, which was under the responsibility of the state.

Draconian law

In response, the state claimed that it had no responsibility regarding the loss using a clause in the Disengagement law stating that the state has no responsibility for the loss of or harm inflicted to the property of those expelled from the region.

Ganan fought this claim by presenting another clause of the law, which rules that the state will itself evacuate the portable belongings of the residents.

"The court ruled that there is a contradiction between the two clauses. They were preceded by the state investigate council, the Matza Commission, which found that if the state determined itself to be responsible for the equipment it is indeed responsible, as well as for equipment that disappeared," said Ganan.

As a result the court ordered the state to compensate Wasserteil to the tune of roughly 800,000 shekels, in addition to legal expenses amounting to 140,000 shekels (around $36,000).

When asked why Wasserteil waited seven years to sue the state, Ganan said that it was due to the modesty of the farmer who had a difficult time seeing his name in the legal case Wasserteil versus the State of Israel.

Ganan noted that the compensation is in fact a very small sum compared to the losses Wasserteil suffered by losing his life's work, both materially and emotionally.

The lawyer added that while there are other farmers in a similar situation to Wasserteil, given that so many years have gone by the laws do not allow a similar suit to be brought anymore.

He noted that in the past the state issued symbolic compensation to those who were expelled for the loss of sentimental property, such as family photo albums and the like, but not for possessions of a higher monetary value.