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Final report: Gov’t mishandled Gush Katif evacuees

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government mishandled the resettlement of Jewish families evacuated from Gush Katif, according to a state commission’s report.

The report found that the government was not prepared to resettle the nearly 1,700 families from 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and northern Samaria that were unilaterally evacuated in 2005.

Issues surrounding the evacuees, which the report called "refugees in the homeland," must be resolved by the end of 2011, the report demanded.

Retired Judge Eliahu Matza, chairman of the State Commission of Inquiry into the Handling of the Evacuees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria by the Authorized Authorities, turned the final report over to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

The report noted that the unemployment level of the evacuees is about double that of the rest of the country and that many continue to live in inappropriate temporary housing. The report also decried the lack of public institutions erected in their new communities.

Referring to the refugees, the report said, "With hard work, sacrifice, talent and blind faith they erected amazing communities in the areas that were evacuated. It is especially because the settlements were a way of life for them, the evacuation was especially traumatic. People lost not only their homes, jobs and communities, but they also lost a part of their identity."

The commission did lay some of the blame on those Gush Katif settlers who delayed making decisions about where they wanted to live permanently, stalling the process until all of their demands were met. 

Netanyahu told commission members Tuesday that he will work intensively in order to implement the recommendations of the report and complete the handling of the evacuees.

"Our goal is to bring each one of the evacuees into their permanent homes; this is our obligation as a government," he said. "As seen in the report, the current Government has acted, and will continue to act, to bring about a conclusion in the handling of the evacuees.

"It is also very important to bring about closure on the discussion and in this the report will have a decisive role. All those involved need to study its conclusions. We will not tolerate foot-dragging."

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