Photo: Ilan Marciano
Disengagement Authority Head Yonatan Bassi
Photo: Ilan Marciano

Too little, too late?

Disengagement Authority dealing with compensation claims of only 284 settler families out of 1,400 ; Prime Minister's Office director-general says those registered with Authority will get their money in two years

JERUSALEM - The IDF pullout from Gaza and the northern West Bank is only 55 days away, yet the Disengagement Authority is processing the compensation requests of only 284 settler families, Authority Head Yonatan Bassi admitted on Tuesday.


Speaking at a subcommittee of the Knesset Finance Committee, Bassi and Ilan Cohen, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, said that less than one-fifth of the 1,700 settler families scheduled to be evacuated have claims with the Disengagement Authority.


The government body is also negotiating with another 700 families to move them en masse to designated areas such as Nitzanim. However, the negotiations are still underway, and it is unclear if the families will all agree to the offered accommodations.


As the deadline approaches


Cohen said that since the High Court of Justice's ruling on the Evacuation-Compensation Law there has been an increase in settler applications to the Authority.


Even more applications are expected as the disengagement date gets closer.


However, the Authority's ability to process the claims will slow down as settlers will be expected to bring, from a town council that will not exist, documents noting the size of their soon-to-be non-existent homes.


"They should be surprised later if it takes two years until they receive their compensation," Cohen said.


According to Cohen, the Disengagement Authority is working on the cases of 284 settler families who have applied for compensation. So far, 66 families have been approved for compensation and 51 have already received their money.


Of the 284, 20 are business people with property in Neveh Dekalim or the Erez industrial zone.


Regarding negotiations with the settlers about an en mass move, Cohen said the number of families ready to move stands at 700.


As for settler agriculture, Bassi said, "Because there are dozens of farmers who have asked for alternative fields, the government developed a model by which the Israel lands Authority buys land from other farmers so the settlers can get replacement land for their greenhouses."


"At present, we have two sites, one of 1,000 dunams (250 acres) in the Kibbutz Zikim area and 400 dunams (100 acres) close to the Ashkelon industrial zone," he said.


According to the Disengagement Authority head, only 60-80 Gush Katif farmers – out of a total of 160 – want to continue in their current business.


A Finance Ministry representative told the subcommittee said that changes made by the High Court regarding the Evacuation-Compensation Law will cost the government an additional NIS 600 million (USD 138 million).


The politicians take stock


The committee chairman, Knesset Member Avraham Shochat (Labor), said, "The fact that just a few settlers signed the agreement is a result of the pressure applied on them by disengagement opponents."


Knesset Member Chaim Oron (Yahad) said, "It seems that the government bodies and authorities are ready for disengagement. The attempt by settler leaders to present the situation as a mess is just a cynical exploitation of the settlers' situation."


Meanwhile, Knesset Member Benny Alon (National Union) said the report by the director-general of future administrative gridlock was a poorly disguised threat on the settlers.


"It's not ethical. The Evacuation-Compensation Law allows for an extension of two years, so residents won't be under pressure when filing for compensation," said Alon. "This committee is distorting the law."


פרסום ראשון: 06.21.05, 23:05
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