(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this morning (Wednesday), 22 June 2005, convened a meeting of the Ministerial Committee on the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni briefed ministers on the main points of the recent High Court of Justice decision regarding the legality of the Disengagement Plan and also commented on the ramifications of the decision.

Ministers were briefed on the main points of the agreement that has been formulated with settlers’ representatives.  A special team appointed by the Committee has been in continuous contact in recent weeks with various groups of settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria and has requested that the committee approve the principles of the agreement before it is published.

Prime Minister Sharon instructed that the principles of the agreement be presented at the next cabinet meeting. He acceded to the request of Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, who expressed reservations regarding the clause in the draft agreement that discusses the possibility of establishing an independent municipal authority in the framework of the implementation of the Nitzanim plan. Representatives of the aforementioned special team emphasized that it is important that the settlers preserve their municipal framework in order to maintain the unique educational system that they have developed over the years.

The prime minister said that he intends to do everything possible to make things easier for the settlers and added: “Nobody here has been asked to leave their home after dozens of years or to leave the trees that he grew. I decided to make an effort to embark on the least painful path. Nobody here has been evacuated from his home. It is a pity to deal with this issue, whoever wants to support it may do so and whoever wants to oppose it may do so. It is a pity to waste time but I have never encountered an instance in which a minister was denied his right of appeal. The committee’s decision will be appealed this Sunday and I want it to be the first item on the agenda so that no more negotiating time is wasted.” 

Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen emphasized that, if enough settlers do not join the Nitzanim plan, the National Planning and Building Council will be unable to approve the implementation of the project.

Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog said that by the end of the day Construction and Housing Ministry representatives will complete signing for approximately 200 rental apartments. He added that contacts are being held with hundreds of additional apartment owners. These apartments, which are designed to serve as temporary housing for the settlers, will be listed on his ministry’s Web site.

Agriculture Ministry Director-General Yossi Yishai briefed ministers on the various agricultural lands being offered to the settlers and emphasized that there are enough lands for the needs of all farmers. The committee decided on an arrangement to provide bridging loans for businesses in order to enable settlers to move their businesses before completing the compensation award process. Thus, the business owners will be able to continue ongoing activities. Prime Minister Sharon instructed that a format be prepared in which farmers will be able to rebuild their farms, while providing assistance for lost profits for one growing season.