Agriculture Minister: Gov´t Has No Solution For Katif Farmers

Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz says that the government has no solution to compensate Gaza farmers for their expulsion and is instead seeking to shift blame to the residents themselves.

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, | updated: 16:58

The Ministerial Committee on the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan held a meeting with the media Wednesday Morning with the sole aim being to squelch rumors that the government was not prepared to implement the withdrawal from Gaza and the northern Samaria and provide the 9,000 evicted residents with homes and compensation.

"I have invited the media this morning in order to refute the disinformation being disseminated on these issues by bodies that want to prevent the disengagement," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at the start of the meeting. "The Government is energetically preparing to provide solutions for each evacuee. I emphasize that each evacuee has a solution and we will present them during the discussion."

Katz, whose Ministry is in charge of allotting agricultural land to farmers who are slated to be expelled from Gush Katif, said that PM Sharon was not being honest. "If there was an actual conversation on the matter, I would have attended the meeting, but it was simply a staged media event for everyone to make a statement about how they are ready - which they are not."

Katz was told by the Prime Minister's staff that the issue of allotted lands for Gush Katif farmers would not be raised at the meeting. He was told there was no reason for him to attend. "The government is trying to blame the residents for not cooperating, but this matter is not related to them at all. Before the things are able to arrive at my office for approval, they need to be moved by other parts of the government, setting aside land - this was simply not done. Any solutions brought forward by our office have been completely struck down by the legal system, without any alternatives offered. There are simply no options for the Agricultural Ministry to even approve."

The Agriculture Minister said that the government is fully aware of the situation, and therefore chose to avoid it at the meeting. "The matter of agricultural land was omitted from the meeting. The written invitation even said 'the matter of agriculture will not be discussed.' I intended to present a factual presentation that there is simply no solution prepared by the government for the farmers of Gush Katif."

Meanwhile, Gush Katif's farmers have decided to plant next season's crops regardless of the looming plan to expel them from their homes. Although the bank loans that usually enable planting are being denied them, a campaign has been launched to collect funds from private citizens to provide the loans. Under the slogan "Those who believe are planting," full page ads have been taken out in Israeli papers.

It is widely assumed, and confirmed to MK Effie Eitam (Engagement Party) by Sharon confidant Atty. Dov Weisglass, that the implementation of the withdrawal plan hinges upon the assumption that the Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria can be induced to leave voluntarily.

"Even a farmer in Gush Katif who is actually interested in moving," Katz said, "the government is simply not prepared or willing to offer any solutions. We are talking about some of the finest farmers in the country - they will face extreme damages and financial trauma in addition to the personal price of being evacuated."