Katif greenhouse
Katif greenhouseIsrael news photo

The state’s official investigative committee regarding the country’s treatment of the Gush Katif expellees has been issued, giving failing grades to the government. Gush Katif residents say they hope the report will lead to change, while the committee's chairman said the eviction-and-rehabilitation process must be streamlined for the future.

The nearly-500 page report was formulated by a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza, whose other members were Prof. Yedidya Stern and Dr. Shimon Ravid, and which was established in accordance with a Knesset Audit Committee decision from Feb. 2009. The report's bottom line: “The State of Israel failed in its treatment of those it evacuated from Gush Katif.”

Nearly 9,000 people in 1,940 families from 25 communities in Gush Katif and northern Shomron were uprooted from their homes in the Disengagement of August 2005, the brainchild and initiative of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government. It did not bring about the promised security and political benefits, and many of those who supported it later expressed their bitter regrets

Justice Matza submitted the report on Tuesday to Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, saying, “The report depicts a failure. Most of the residents still live in temporary structures, their permanent homes have not been built, the public buildings are still in the very first stagers, and the rate of unemployment is above average.”

Matza believes that this was not the last expulsion that Israel will carry out on its residents: “Regarding the future, there is a need to create a permanent model of treatment of this type that will be anchored in law, in order to prevent in the future bureaucratic problems and overcome the obstacles in advance.”

Rivlin: Fast Eviction, Slow Rehabilitation
Rivlin said, “The evicted residents paid the highest price for the decision of the majority. They built their homes with the support and encouragement of various governments, but yet while the eviction was done quickly and with no delay, everything that had to do with their rehabilitation was met with terrible bureaucracy and apathy… We now have a national mission to rehabilitate the expelled residents, and I believe that this report will help speed it up.”

A Wretched Situation
“Five years after the eviction,” the report states, “the results depict a wretched situation. Most of the evacuees are still living in temporary caravan sites; the construction of most of the permanent homes has not yet begun; a large majority of the public buildings have not yet been built…”

The report found that the rate of unemployment among the expelled residents is double that of the rest of the country. Many of them are in need of economic help, and some of them are still in court regarding the extent of the compensation they deserve. “The rehabilitation process of the evicted residents is therefore far from over,” the report concludes.

Doron Ben-Shlomi, Chairman of the Gush Katif Residents Committee, said on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the report was publicized, that he hopes the government will work very soon to correct the injustices that were done.

Ministers to Convene Next Week
Minister Daniel Heskovitz, who chairs the ministerial committee for the treatment of the uprooted residents, said he would convene his committee next week to set a timetable for the adoption and implementation of the committee’s conclusions.

Why Were Individuals not Named?
MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) said that the Knesset committee he chairs will hold weekly meetings to ensure that the government follows the committee’s recommendations. He expressed disappointment that the committee did not apportion specific blame to individuals.

Matza explained that the committee did not name names “because that would have required warning letters in advance and longer proceedings, which would have negatively affected our main objective, which was to list the urgent general conclusions.”

MK Uri Ariel (National Union), who has been in the forefront of efforts to provide aid and support to the uprooted residents, said, “The report has done some justice, but does not provide the residents with relief. The big test will be what happens next. It will be hard.” He expressed concern that the government has not announced that it was accepting and adopting the committee’s findings.