Monday, May 19, 2008

Refugees in their own land

Three years later and thousands of rockets 40% of the Gush Katif refugees are still without permanent housing reports the Jerusalem Post:
Close to three years since they were pulled from their homes, 40.2 percent of the Gaza evacuees are still waiting for lots on which to build their new homes, according to statistics released Sunday by the Sela Disengagement Authority at a press conference in Ashkelon

Out of those 547 families, 15.5% - 211 families - won't be able to start construction for at least another nine months due to infrastructure work in their new communities, according to the authority. Slightly more than 13% - 180 families - are likely to get their housing lots in a month, pending the resolution of a boundary dispute over the Nitzanim site outside of Ashkelon, according to the authority.

A lawsuit filed by the evacuees regarding the Lachish site has kept 8.1% - 111 families - from working on their new homes. And 3.3% - 45 families - are only in the initial stages of site development. However, according to Disengagement Authority head Tzvia Shimon, 43% - 586 families - have received housing lots and can start construction.

According to the authority, 1,941 families applied for housing compensation as a result of the August 2005 disengagement in which the government evacuated 21 communities in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria. The cost of resettling those 1,941 families will total more than NIS 6 billion, NIS 4.3b. of which has already been spent. Included in the NIS 6b. figure are NIS 2.1b. for infrastructure and NIS 1.7b. in direct compensation payments to the families.

But in compiling their housing chart for the press conference, the authority only calculated the fate of the 1,359 evacuee families who are fully eligible for housing compensation and have 24 communal housing sites set aside for them. The 582 families not included in the authority's chart include those who had rented their homes in Gaza and second-generation settlers who lived with their parents at the time of the disengagement but who now need their own homes. Out of the 1,359 families, 16.6% - 226 families - chose to take individual housing options and have used their compensation funds to buy new homes.

A majority of the remaining 1,133 families want to rebuild in communal settings with their former neighbors and as a result are living in modular homes in temporary communal settings as they wait to construct their new permanent homes. Out of those families, only 586 can start to build.

But only some 60 to 70 have actually started work on their homes, according to the evacuees, who plan to hold a protest outside the Knesset at 4 p.m. Monday to protest the slow pace at which the government has moved to provide them with new homes. Initially, the government promised that the resettlement process would take two years, but after the disengagement backed down from that timetable.

At a price tag of 4.3 billion NIS and counting, with 40% of Gush Katif refugees still not relocated to permanent housing, three years and thousands of rockets later; can we now say the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was an unmitigated disaster? And this was only the relocation of only 9.000 Israeli citizens.

What never fails to amaze me is those who can watch this fiasco and still think the Israeli government can potentially disengage 18.000 Israeli citizens from the Golan Heights or 250,000 plus Israelis from the disputed territories. And what on earth makes anyone think that those people, having watched the fate of the Gush Katif Israelis that they would willingly leave their homes, businesses and communities and become the new refugees?

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