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Reactions to the Comptroller's Report

Responding to the sharp report against the gov't for its many
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/8/2006, 9:58 AM / Last Update: 3/8/2006, 12:24 PM

Responding to the sharp report against the gov't for its many disengagement mistakes, many politicians say, "We told you so." The Land of Israel Legal Forum has several immediate demands.

The Land of Israel Legal Forum, which has been accompanying the residents for well over a year on a volunteer basis, responded as follows to the State Comptroller's report:

"The report's conclusions are exactly that which we have feared and warned about for many months. The 'dedicated' treatment by Sela is a disgrace and a mockery of the uprooted residents. We hope that the report will not be buried in a State archive somewhere, and that it will lead to positive actions for the families."

The Forum published a list of demands in light of the report - in the areas of housing, employment, and social and psychological help. The demands:

Housing:
1. Rush up the construction of temporary [two-year] housing in Ein Tzurim.
2. Get everyone out of the hotels and into temporary housing.
3. Recognize those who lived in caravans in Gush Katif as being eligible for compensation.
4. Grant compensation to yeshiva students who lived in Gush Katif for years.

Employment:
1. Increase professional re-training courses for the expellees, without restrictions and difficulties.
2. Provide unemployment funding to those who were self-employed who lost their source of sustenance because of the decision to disengage.
3. Grant financial incentives to business owners who want to rebuild their businesses.
4. Stop immediately the delays in the allocation of lands to farmers.
5. Pay salaries to the rabbis retroactively; they are still now serving as leaders of their communities.

Social and psychological help:
1. Increase funding and professional manpower for social and psychological help
2. Open youth clubs and public buildings for the expellees, help the dozens of youths who have left school, and help those who have deteriorated in their studies.
3. Compensate students who paid for a school year that they lost, and help them make up what they lost.

MK Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the National Religious Party, said:
"The grave failures exposed in this report prove that the Kadima-Likud government [Kadima was essentially formed by those who, when they were in the Likud, initiated and executed the Disengagement - ed.] committed a terrible humanitarian crime towards the people of Gush Katif, who were uprooted from their homes and abandoned to their fate, amidst neglect of their needs in housing, employment education and communal needs."

Yonatan Bassi, head of the Sela Administration:
"The timing of the report, and the gruff style in which it was written, are not appropriate." Other Sela officials said that the errors it made were due to the complex nature of the Disengagement and the lack of cooperation on the part of many of the residents.

Eran Sternberg, former Gush Katif spokesman, and a number of other expelled residents:
"The report... shows that the State, via the Disengagement plan, threw a Sela [Hebrew for 'large rock'] on the heads of the Gush Katif residents. It ratifies each of the residents' claims... It is a mark of shame on the forehead of the government, Knesset, police, army and justice system that all failed gravely in defending the human rights of the residents of Gush Katif and northern Shomron... It is more than symbolic that the report is publicized while the government transfers 200 million shekels to Hamas, which won the PA election because of the expulsion and the withdrawal."

In other Gush Katif news, the ministerial disengagement committee has approved another 10 million shekels for families to remain in hotels for another four weeks. Several families had been threatened with another forcible expulsion this week, even though their caravillas are not yet ready. Sela head Yonatan Bassi told the ministers that no families will remain in hotels after April 6.

The residents of Elkanah, a relatively well-to-do community in central Samaria, have found a unique way to help their Gush Katif counterparts: installing Sabbath clocks. The Elkanites learned that not only did the caravilla builders in Nitzan "forget" to install Sabbath clocks - which religiously-observant families rely to turn on and off lights and heaters on the Sabbath - but there is not even a place on the existing electric panel to install one. The people of Elkanah therefore took this mission upon themselves. Electricians from the town volunteered their time to install the new panels and clocks, while the children of Elkanah continue to collect money to buy the materials. So far, some 30 caravillas have been fitted with the clocks; 270 remain. Each clock and panel costs 600 shekels. For more information, see the "Salt of the Earth" Shomron aid association's website at .