JERUSALEM (Jul. 31)
For settlers in the Gaza Strip scrambling to find new housing before their mid-August evacuation deadline, official help can seem slow in coming. The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled a long-awaited, not-yet-completed temporary housing development for Gaza evacuees Sunday. While several families turned up to collect keys to their temporary dwellings and take part in orientation tours in the coastal community of Nitzanim, others complained of bureaucratic holdups.
Rachel Dahan said her family applied for a state-funded relocation package in April.
“As of today, we haven’t received any answer,” she told Israel Radio. “We are just waiting for an answer so we can move.”
Other settlers complained that the homes are too small for entire families, even for the short term.
The discord was music to the ears of hard-line settlers who have vowed to resist the evacuation from Gaza and the northern West Bank scheduled to begin on Aug. 15.
“This disappointment proves that an ideological battle with the government of lies is the only option,” said Eran Lehrman, spokesman for the Gush Katif settlement bloc.
Even the government had to concede that such calls to resist the withdrawal have proven persuasive.
Housing Minister Isaac Herzog said that, given the current rate of applications, only about half of the 9,000 settlers slated for evacuation will avail themselves of state help.
“Our working assumption is that around half of the families will, on the morning of the evacuation, still have forgone” compensation, Herzog told Israel’s Army Radio. “We are doing everything possible to reduce this number.”
The figures appeared to fuel fears that the withdrawal will be marked by violent confrontations between security forces and Gaza settlers backed by hundreds of loyalists who have slipped in from Israel.
The Yesha settler council, the main representative body of the West Bank and Gaza settlements, has called for nonviolent protests only. But a Yesha plan to stage a rally in Gaza on Tuesday provoked government anger.
But Interior Minister Gideon Ezra, who ordered police to disrupt a similar march earlier this month, said that this time around there would be more flexibility if protesters remained in the Israeli border town of Sderot.
“Police will allow the anti-disengagement activists to demonstrate in Sderot only if they can prevent them from reaching Gush Katif. Police will be deployed as necessary to prevent a trek from Sderot southward,” he said.
Yesha remained defiant, but the right-wing lawmaker Effie Eitam held consultations with police on a possible compromise.
Meanwhile, Israel talked tough against the threat of Palestinian terrorists firing on soldiers or settlers during the withdrawal.
If such a threat transpires, Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim said that Israel will launch an unprecedented military sweep of Gaza, akin to its 2002 Defensive Shield operation in the West Bank.