Daily Israel Report

Katif Residents Rebuff Government Pressure

The government is keeping up its pressure on the residents of Gush Katif and northern Shomron, announcing that families will be able to join the Nitzanim project only until next week.
First Publish: 5/19/2005, 8:44 AM / Last Update: 5/18/2005, 2:00 PM

The ministerial committee that was formed last month to find housing solutions for the residents decided this morning to order 300 caravans - mobile homes without wheels - for the purpose. This doubles the amount of caravans that have been ordered. Decisions of this nature are a red flag for many residents, because they signify "refugee camps" (see below).

Yesterday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Nitzanim site, where he says he can build up to four new communities for the Jews slated to be uprooted. He angrily told the Defense Ministry representatives there, "Hurry up already! Every minute is precious. Don't expect everything to be 100% perfect before you start working - first start working, get moving, and then we'll tie up the loose ends."

The Disengagement Authority reported yesterday that 426 families had agreed to the Nitzanim plan - but Gush Katif officials don't take this seriously. Eran Sternberg, official spokesman for Gush Katif, told Arutz-7 today, "We could open a museum with all the Disengagement Authority announcements of how many people have signed this or that document..." He was referring to previous declarations of large numbers of people who had supposedly agreed to leave their homes, but which later turned out to be untrue.

"We have checked this very carefully," Sternberg said, "and it's simply not true. Out of the 1,600 families here, only 100 to 150 have signed - but they signed not that they are willing to leave, but only on a declarative statement alone [he elaborated on this later -ed.]..."

"We have a sharp dispute with these families," Sternberg said, "not over the ultimate goal, because we all are committed to this area and to the struggle against the plan to expel us - but over the extent of our contacts with the government. We feel that despite the tremendous pressures we are all undergoing, we must remember that the disengagement authority has nothing at all to offer. No one really believes that anything will grow on the sand dunes of Nitzanim in the coming three months, and people who sign will be left with nothing but a piece of paper."

"Unfortunately," Sternberg said, "there are some amongst us who believe the government's nonsensical claim that it must know how many people are interested in Nitzanim before it starts spending public money on it. I say to you that the real reason, and the only reason, that the government wants these letters signed is because it wants to neutralize our public struggle against the plan. The government is shaking with fear after the tremendous protests all around the country two days ago - which were very encouraging for us, with all the great self-sacrifice the people showed - and therefore it wishes to take the wind out of our sails. You see that the government was even willing to take all mention of any kind of legal commitment out of the letter - because its only goal was to be able to have some kind of document with signatures that it could show the public."

"Our lawyers - the volunteer group known as the Land of Israel Legal Forum - are trying to convince the minority who signed that their signature will only hurt them in the long run. We know that what the government is offering us is temporary caravans for now, and a promise of Nitzanim for later. But we don't trust them; we know how things work here. Interior Minister Pines will stop the plan with some sort of edict, and the Greens will file petitions, and the government will roll its eyes and say, 'Sorry, we tried; stay where you are, here's some more money and get lost.' ... Whoever signs now - that's what he'll get. A month ago, as well, Sharon banged on the table and told them to start working - and we see that nothing has moved since then. ... But what the Legal Forum is trying to demand is that the government promise that we won't have to be uprooted twice; we want the caravans to be built on the same land on which the permanent houses will be built. So whoever signs now might end up in refugee camps, while the others have a chance of really getting Nitzanim... If there's a chance of anyone getting anything, if Heaven forbid the worst happens, it's only those who don't blink now..."

"We are all on one team, and we're all friends," Sternberg said about the two camps. " Yesterday, a journalist called me and asked if it was true that we had started boycotting each other; I told her that she had reached me precisely in the store of one of my friends in the minority group who had signed, and we were all still good friends... Those who signed are themselves continuing the struggle - they are terror victims who have remained here despite the more than 5,000 rockets, and whose children are among the leaders of our protest struggles."

Eliyahu Uzan of Netzarim, in an open letter on this topic, further explained:

"We must not do anything that harms the struggle - since we believe there is a good chance that the disengagement plan will not actually be implemented. We need not dig our own graves by actually giving up the struggle and meeting directly with the government. If we sign now our agreement to move to alternate sites, this will shame us in the eyes of history, as well as vis-a-vis the education of our children in the future.

"In addition, if Heaven forbid we are uprooted, we must remain as one large community. This has great social and psychological value, as well as economic. At present the government is offering us to be spread out in eight different places for at least three years in temporary caravan sites - and after that, they hope that we will be able to move back together. Can anyone say that this is a realistic plan?! There will be delays and Supreme Court petitions and the like, and it will take at least another five years! We demand to receive our permanent sites now; only in this way will we remain together.

"Happily, we are being helped by the Legal Forum, headed by Atty. Yitzchak Meron, which has 100 lawyers, adjusters and advisors in every area. They help and advise us, and meet with government representatives.

"I call upon my brothers in Gush Katif not to sign any document. Signing will harm not only your economic and material future, but also - and possibly even more - our common communal future, the education of your children, the spirit within you, and the future of our struggle."

Meron's team, as well, advised the residents not to sign any government document.