Daily Israel Report

MKs Come Down Hard on Disengagement Preparations

Knesset Members from right and left accuse the government of hard-heartedness and disingenuousness vis-a-vis the thousands of Gaza and Shomron residents it wishes to expel from their homes.
First Publish: 12/15/2004, 6:53 PM / Last Update: 12/15/2004, 11:13 AM

Two Knesset committee meetings convened this week – the Law Committee and the Finance Committee – to discuss the proposed Evacuation-Compensation Law, known in Hebrew as the Pinui-Pitzui Bill. The debates were similar in tone, reports Arutz-7's Knesset correspondent Ariel Kahane.

Both committees must approve and/or amend the bill before it is returned to the Knesset for its final readings. Law Committee Chairman Michael Eitan (Likud) explained to Arutz-7 today that the bill was divided into two parts, "with the Law Committee dealing with matters of principle, such as citizens' basic rights to human dignity and to own property, and criminal punishment [of those who object]. The Finance Committee is dealing with technical issues such as the amount of compensation."

Both committee chairmen said they would complete their work by the end of this month.

MK Eitan told his fellow MKs that he would not allow the bill to pass his committee until it includes clear directives showing more practical consideration for those slated to be uprooted.

Eitan also warned that steps are not being taken to prevent possible bloodshed during the intended evacuation. "We face an unprecedented proceeding in the history of Israeli society," he said, "and we are not relating to it with sufficient caution. There is a danger of bloodshed during the course of the evacuation, and no effort is being made by any of those involved to ensure that it doesn't happen."

The main claim against the government, expressed by MKs on both sides of the political spectrum, is that it is not taking steps to ensure the post-evacuation welfare of the residents. Specifically, preparations are not being made to prepare alternative sites that entire communities can move to. "The general feeling was that the government is simply giving them money and telling them to fend for themselves," Kahane said.

The point was raised that the Evacuation Authority, headed by Yonatan Bassi, is not taking proactive steps to prepare new communities. The Authority's legal counsel, Atty. Itai Aharonson, told the Law Committee that the Authority is waiting for the residents to formally request to move en-masse, and only then will the appropriate preparations be made.

Several MKs, including MK Reshef Chen (Shinui), were incensed. Chen said that the Justice Ministry is "booby-trapping the settlers, because it's obvious that if they turn to the Authority, it will be interpreted as if they agree to be expelled." He and other MKs said that alternative communities must be prepared, whether or not the residents end up living there.

A similar point was made by former Religious Affairs Minister Shimon Sheetrit of Labor. He referred the committee members to clause 2a2 of the bill in question, in which is stated that the government has not yet decided to evacuate Jewish communities. Only decisions "in principle" have been made to date. "If the government itself has not yet decided," Sheetrit said, "how can we expect the residents to decide?"

Sheetrit also said that the Justice Ministry and the Evacuation Authority must also, in keeping with the above clause, "make preparations for the scenario that the disengagement will not take place." The point was made that it is inconceivable that the Knesset should not be allowed to supervise, and stop if necessary, the disengagement process.

Yonatan Bassi himself has said that the financial compensation being offered to the residents is "not high," and that some people would not be able to maintain their current standard of living.

Journalist Ya'ir Sheleg presented a research work he prepared, which includes recommendations to show special consideration in various areas to the residents. Sheleg recommends not only the preservation of their communal frameworks, but also that "ideological consideration" be shown them by allowing them to move to Judea and Samaria. Financial compensation and psychological counseling must also be appropriate, Sheleg stated.

"The evacuation of Jewish towns is a traumatic move not only for the residents themselves, but for the whole society," Sheleg said. "It involves a personal crisis for the residents, and could even lead to bloodshed and irreparable chasms." He also warned of attempts to cause chaos, "by shooting in the air or at Arabs," on the part of disengagement opponents.

Chairman Eitan said, "As far as I am concerned, there are no 'sacred dates' [such as March, the month in which Prime Minister Sharon said the bill would be passed – ed.], and until the bill does not clarify how the Evacuation Authority is to show active consideration for the residents, this committee will not approve the bill."