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      Residents: "Government is Panicking"

      "The government expected that by now, most of us would have been gone," says Lior Kalfa, head of the N'vei Dekalim secretariat. "That's why it's trying every trick it can think of to pressure us."

      First Publish: 5/26/2005, 4:45 PM / Last Update: 5/26/2005, 2:29 PM

      Ilan Cohen, Director-General of the Prime Minister's Bureau, scathingly attacked the residents his boss - Ariel Sharon - has vowed he will uproot from their homes. "We can't be expected to build apartments throughout the country while waiting for them to deign to tell us where they would like to move," Cohen told Israel Radio today. "Their demands are totally unreasonable, and are turning us into an insane country... Do you know that on the average, each families is to receive $400,000 in compensation!? I heard [left-wing commentator] Amnon Abramovitch say this on television!"

      Arutz-7 discussed this matter with Atty. Yitzchak Meron, who heads the Land of Israel Legal Forum that has voluntarily taken upon itself to represent the legal and other interests of the Gush Katif residents.

      Arutz-7 Meron's opinion on Cohen's statistics and on the fact that Cohen quoted a TV commentator on the matter. "I have no idea where this number is from," Meron said, "and in fact, it has no significance. There can be someone with a $25 million factory, and another with a small house, so what sense does it make to take an average? ... And these numbers usually take into account moving expenses and rent and the like - what, is this a gift from the government to the residents? They're being thrown out of their homes!"

      Cohen toured Gush Katif yesterday, and though he met with some residents and representatives for close to two hours in N'vei Dekalim, he was not allowed to pass through the gates of the community of Kfar Darom. Residents stood in front of his car and explained that they did not wish to be "used" in the advancement of expulsion and uprooting plans. Some of the residents called out, "No entry to uprooters!" He finally turned around and left.

      Kfar Darom spokesman Asher Mivtzari later explained, "His entire visit, which was not coordinated with us in advance, was designed to promote the plan to which we so strongly object. When he and the government return to their original mandate of building a society instead of tearing down, we will welcome him happily."

      Atty. Meron responded today to government claims that the residents are not talking with the government and that the government cannot be expected to provide many different solutions at once: "Ilan Cohen knows who is being unreasonable and who is not. Is it reasonable for the country to only now begin preparing caravans for the people it plans to throw out of their homes three months from now? How can it be that only this week the government submitted plans for the caravan site?! ...

      "The farmers, for instance, don't even know where their new plots of land are supposed to be, and it's only 3 months away! First the government proposed Kibbutz Nachal Oz, then rejected it, then they gave them some more options, and then the Attorney-General disqualified them. And so not only are they only receiving 60% compensation, they don't know their future, where they will live, or where they will farm."

      "Up until a month ago," Meron said, "the only offer on the table was that the residents would receive a lump sum of money and then go fend for themselves. (I'm not even talking about the fact that the sum was much less than we, and many other, think it should be.) However, the government was aware, and we made it very clear, that expert psychologists had said that in order to avoid all sorts of expected problems later, the residents should move together with their communities... Finally, a month ago, the government made a decision to build them communities." Still, he emphasized, no progress has been made to this end.

      Meron said that government representatives knew of the psychologists' recommendations at least seven months ago, yet did nothing. "Disengagement Authority director Yonatan Bassi, in his fairness, admits that it is very important for the communities to move together - so why didn't he do anything about this before? Why is the timetable built in such a way that first the date of moving is set and only afterwards all the needs are taken into account - why not the opposite?"

      Meron explained the need for the communities to remain together: "After the withdrawal from Yamit and the other Sinai communities [in 1982, in the framework of the treaty with Egypt], it was seen that there were many divorces, suicides, heart attacks, and the like. Those who had a supportive community, however, went through this very traumatic period much more successfully. The 3-4 communities that were relocated in this fashion from Sinai did much better than the others - though they too didn't have an easy time.

      "For instance, children can continue in the same school, and do not need to start in new schools and find their place once again, in addition to the entire trauma accompanying their move."

      Asked why these children might find the move more difficult than others who routinely move from city to city each year, Atty. Meron explained, "Because the latter do it of their own free will - whereas here they are being moved out against their will; they feel torn down, their dreams have been smashed, their houses are being given over to the terrorists who attacked them for years, they feel defeated and betrayed by their brothers, and the whole process is one of crisis and rupture. When the whole community is together, it's much easier for them to brave this."

      "Businesses, shopping centers - this is another advantage involved in moving entire communities, because these jobs and businesses can be preserved...

      "In short, it is the responsibility of the State of Israel to find the best solutions for the citizens it wishes to uproot. To scatter them around in different apartments all over the south [at government expense for two years - ed.] with an unenforceable promise that it will build them new communities at a central site 2-3 years later, is not a solution."

      Left unmentioned was the latest stick in the wheels of the government plan, namely, Interior Minister Ophir Pines' declaration this week of Nitzanim as a nature preserve on which houses cannot be built.