Gush Homes Too Costly, Too Dangerous to Raze, Says Mofaz

"To raze or not to raze." That is the question regarding the future of the homes of Jews living in Gaza and N. Samaria. Mofaz says they should be left standing, while the PA says, "Bulldoze them."

, | updated: 14:19

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz told Israel Radio today that he was opposed to demolishing the homes of Gush Katif residents because the operation would be both too costly and too dangerous. It would endanger the lives of soldiers who would be left behind in "enemy territory," he said.

“I am not prepared, as the Defense Minister of the State of Israel, to endanger Israeli soldiers, in order to destroy the houses of settlers,” he said.

Mofaz explained that after the expulsion, substantial military forces would have to be left behind in what he called “enemy territory” in order to carry out the demolitions. There is “no assurance there won’t be terror attacks,” he said.

The government has been debating the issue of whether to raze the homes of Gaza’s Jewish residents, or leave them standing. According to the original cabinet decision approving the expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria, the homes are to be demolished. Changing that decision would require cabinet approval.

In contrast to Israel’s uncertainty about what to do with the Jewish homes the government wishes to abandon in Gaza and northern Samaria, the Palestinian Authority is far from ambivalent. The PA wants the houses razed to make room for high-rise apartments which they claim are more suitable to their population.

Mofaz has previously stated his preference for leavingthe buildings intact, citing the position of the defense establishment. "The defense establishment has concluded that it is not right to demolish the settlers' homes," he said.

According to a Defense Ministry study, razing the homes would cost NIS 200 million, and would require trucking the debris back across the 1967 ceasefire lines.

The report also notes that destroying the homes would take ten months, delaying the transfer of the territory to the PA, while potentially endangering Israeli soldiers in the process. Defense Ministry officials are also worried that demolishing the homes would harm the environment, and that photos of the destruction would harm Israel's image abroad.

On the other hand, photos of terrorists dancing on the roofs of homes of Jews they so recently terrorized and murdered would be bad publicity for the government at home.

Mofaz also said he thinks that a speedy pull-out from Gaza would improve Israel’s security, but noted that the effect might not be immediate. "I think our security situation the day after the evacuation will improve over time," Mofaz said. "I also hope the number of civilian and military casualties will diminish to a minimum. This has to be looked at as a process, and not as a point in time immediately after the evacuation."

Overall, Mofaz sees the pull-out as cost-effective: providing Israel with greater security "at a much lower cost," he said.