Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5765 - May 4, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Government and Gaza Residents Agree on Nitzanim Relocation

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The government's disengagement plan ground slowly but surely forward this week as representatives of the government and the residents of Gaza agreed on the basic terms of a plan to resettle a large number of the Gaza residents in a single block in the Nitzanim area.

The government agreed to meet almost all the demands raised by the Gaza Strip settlers. Four new towns will be built in the area, as well as a neighborhood of about 400 homes in the north of Ashkelon.

A second demand raised by the settlers was to allow them an independent municipal entity to replace the Gaza Coast Regional Council, which will cease to exist following the pullout. On this issue too, the government agreed: The settlers were promised that they will be granted independent municipal status, subject to a minimum number of residents populating the new communities. The minimum number itself was not set.

The government also met the settlers' demand for "guarantees" for the implementation of the Nitzanim plan as a condition for their orderly and quiet evacuation of the Gaza Strip. According to a political source, the government has promised to anchor the Nitzanim plan in a new government decision, as well as to pass a special law that will also anchor the budgetary source for the implementation of the plan in the Budget Law.

The government did, however, reject the settlers' demand to reopen the Evacuation Compensation Law and to amend its compensation clauses. "The reopening of the Evacuation Compensation Law is not on the agenda as far as we are concerned," an official said.

These talks took place a month after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's meeting with representatives of the moderate group of settlers who initially raised the idea of setting up a bloc of communities in Nitzanim that would allow the Gush Katif residents to move as a group and to preserve their social fabric following the pullout.

In recent weeks, the government has reviewed the practical possibilities of setting up the communities in a short period of time, while also examining options for temporary housing solutions until the completion of Gush Nitzanim.

Under the original Gush Nitzanim plan formulated by attorney Avi Drechsler, former director of the Israel Lands Administration, every family of settlers is slated to receive either 500-square-meters of land, or a plot of some 1.2 dunams for families who resided on agricultural plots in Gush Katif. The large plots will receive permits for the construction of two houses.

The families are also slated to receive financial compensation for the homes they leave in Gush Katif, but not for their land.

Under the current plan, the evacuees will not have to pay development costs for the Nitzanim land, and will also receive the "Negev grant" of some $30,000 that the Evacuation Compensation Law affords to settlers who relocate to Ashkelon and southward.

"This is a very unique, very large solution for which the government must go a long way in legislation," said Ilan Cohen, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office.

A clause of the Evacuation Compensation Law affords the possibility of enhanced terms for settlers who agree to evacuate their homes voluntarily as a group, Cohen noted.

But in return, he said, "There will be two central demands. First, there must be a list of a mass of people, so that I can go to the attorney general and the public and say that I have truly brought some benefit to the public.

"Second, it will be truly very difficult for us to justify this whole process if people overstep certain bounds, which are the bounds of the law."

Livni stressed that the Nitzanim plan will not involve the relocation of settlers onto the rare sand dunes or into the nature reserve in the area.

Because of the time pressure involved, the government is asking for the settlers to present a list of those agreeing to the move within a week.

In a related matter, the issue of destroying the homes that the settlers leave behind has been a topic of discussion over the past few days. The government previously decided to destroy settlers' homes, but in recent months there have been calls to leave the homes in place. Security officials warned that the destruction of the houses would damage Israel environmentally, financially and in world opinion. It is an expensive task and would cause environmental damage.

On Tuesday a meeting of senior government official exposed deep differences on the matter. Sharon indicated he would prefer to leave homes intact. Peres suggested that they can serve as a resort for Palestinians, but Netanyahu said that they would be used by Hamas and would be seen by the Palestinians as a victory for terror. A final decision was postponed.


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