Bibi Vows to Help Katif Victims

Netanyahu backed expelling Gaza farmers until he objected when the deal was done. He told them Monday that helping them is a “national mission.”

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 9:14 AM

Gush Katif farmer before expulsion
Gush Katif farmer before expulsion
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who backed the expulsion of Gush Katif farmers and then withdrew his support after  the “Disengagement” program was finalized, told them Monday evening that helping them is a “national mission.”

Visiting expulsion victims in the Eshkol Region, near the Gaza barrier that separates the families from the destroyed sites of their former homes, the prime minister met with regional council leaders and three cabinet ministers. Also present was the new head of the committee that for four years has been sharply criticized for failing to help the expulsion victims rebuild their lives.

Dozens of former Gush Katif farmers, many of them in their 50s and 60s, have been unable to return to agriculture because of lack of nearby land, lack of money for investing in new equipment and the waiting time before new produce can bring income.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was optimistic.  We will raise this money in your greenhouses," he told local residents. "We will invest money in what produces money.” He referred to the economic viability of pumping brackish water from underground reservoirs to provide water to local residents and suggested investing in solar energy.

"We intend to harness ourselves to this national mission and proceed towards its realization, government and residents alike, which each side doing its utmost,” the Prime Minister added.

Referring to the economy in general, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was credited for accelerating Israel’s unprecedented growth when he was Finance Minister in the Sharon government, said that his objective is to reach “five percent annual growth for the next several years.”

He concluded, “A dynamic and growing economy…will produce for us the money for security, social needs, education and rural community development.   

Officials at the meeting included Judea and Samaria leader Bentzi Lieberman, who now heads the “Disengagement Authority.” Its name has been changed from SELA, an acronym for the Hebrew name of the committee, to TENUFA, the Hebrew word for “momentum.