Gov't Recognizes Injustice of Gush Katif Compensation Law

Following months of arduous negotiations, the gov't has approved a sorely-needed 500-million shekel addition to the Evacuation/Compensation

Hillel Fendel ,

Expellees' belongings
Expellees' belongings

Following arduous negotiations involving leaders of the Gush Katif expellees, two dedicated Knesset Members and government officials, the government has approved a 500-million shekel addition to the Evacuation/Compensation Law of 2005. "This will help hundreds of families who were simply unable to build new homes," Katif leaders say.

Over 8,000 Israeli citizens were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif (Gaza) and northern Shomron in the framework of Ariel Sharon's Disengagement plan in the summer of 2005. The Evacuation/Compensation Law was to have compensated them for their homes, businesses, and disrupted lives, but residents say it has fallen far short of their basic needs.

The residents had originally new sought new legislation. They were advised by government and political officials, however, to go the route of a mutually agreed-upon arrangement rather than go head-to-head with the government in seeking a Knesset majority - and risk having new elections in the interim delay their efforts for months or more. Finally, the ministerial committee on the Disengagement approved the half-billion shekel amendment to the Law today (Wednesday).

Efforts to correct the injustices, waged by the Gush Katif Committee over the course of months, have included the formation of a lobby group, the obtaining of the signatures of 70 MKs in support of amendments to the legislation, the hosting of dozens of MKs of various parties, and more.

People close to the negotiations say that MK Uri Ariel (National Union) played a very key role in obtaining the requested changes, and that MK Avigdor Yitzchaki of Kadima - who served as then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Bureau Director during the period leading up to the Disengagement - was also tremendously helpful. "MK Ariel was simply amazing," Dror Vanunu, the International Coordinator of the Gush Katif Committee, told Arutz-7, "a real angel all the way."

A Meeting in Olmert's Home
Vanunu said that the talks were mainly held with officials of various ministries and PM Olmert's Bureau Chief Raanan Dinur. "But sometimes Olmert himself became involved," Vanunu said, "such as when Lior Kalfa - head of the Gush Katif Committee - went to Olmert's home to iron out a few disagreements."

The basic injustice that the residents sought to correct was the meager compensation given to families for their homes.
Vanunu explained that the homes were originally compensated at a rate of $750 per square meter, while "in nearby Ashkelon, a new home costs close to $2,000 per meter. The difference is so great that if a family seeks an apartment in an outlying neighborhood of Ashkelon even half the size of its demolished home, it is impossible and causes untold hardships."

Other injustices that have now been amended include compensation to those who until now have "fallen between the cracks," such as youths who were included in their families' compensation but have since married and are starting their own homes.

The residents hope that problems faced by businesses and farmers will be addressed within a short number of weeks. Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) is visiting some of the expellees' temporary communities Wednesday afternoon.