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
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
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
"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