(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this morning (Thursday), 18 August 2005, convened a meeting of the Ministerial Disengagement Committee.

Security establishment officials briefed ministers that 12 communities have already been evacuated. According to security establishment data, as of this morning, approximately 1,050 families, out of the 1,530 that lived in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, have already been evacuated. Approximately 570 containers have been brought in to the communities that are being evacuated; as of now, 258 have been brought out. Attempts by demonstrators to block main roads throughout the country continued over the past two days; however, the security establishment succeeded in preventing this.

Prime Minister Sharon referred to the coordination with the Palestinians and said: “Until the full and complete evacuation of the last soldier and the last piece of equipment, the Palestinians will not, in any way, enter the evacuated area. Only after everything has been evacuated will it be possible to coordinate the entry of the Palestinians.”

An Israel Police representative reported that security has recently been increased at all centers to which families have been evacuated, including hotels, mobile home sites and other structures. Prime Minister added, in this context: “The army and the police are acting in the most respectable way possible.  It is simply touching to see how they are acting with sensitivity and restraint and I think that the entire country can be proud of such forces.”

Ministers were updated on the situation at the hotels in which most of the evacuated families are staying. Approximately 3,000 hotel rooms have been allocated around the country, with approximately 500 families staying in hotels.

Prime Minister Sharon said that: “We must utilize these days in which people are in the hotels in order to find housing solutions for those who have not cooperated with the Government up to now.  This must be done quickly and immediately; we must hear what these families want and do everything possible in order to provide them with solutions.  Moreover, there are several communities that have expressed interest in establishing communities in the Negev and this also must be dealt with urgently. I want it to be clear that we must act quickly and effectively and I do not want people to feel that they are being forgotten as soon as they leave the area; I want them to be looked after.” The Prime Minister emphasized that it was very important to maintain the communal nature of the evacuated settlers. The Committee also authorized a special team to formulate agreements with groups of settlers according to Article 85 of the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law. The team will include representatives from the SELA Disengagement Authority, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and the Justice, Interior and Finance ministries.

PMO Director-General Ilan Cohen reported that the eligibility committees have recently been active in the hotels that are hosting the families, distributing NIS 50,000 advances. Approximately 400 advances have been so far distributed to families that were asked to fill out a short form. This procedure allows liquid cash to be provided to families on an immediate basis.

SELA Disengagement Authority Yonatan Basi reported that the personnel were reinforced this morning at the hotels that are absorbing the settlers and added that very many volunteers are active in the field and are assisting the settlers as much as possible. He said that last night the Authority informed the settlers who have yet to evacuate their belongings that their belongings would be evacuated by the IDF with the settlers being allowed – to the extent possible – to oversee the packing and transportation of their belongings to inside the State of Israel.

Justice Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitz said that as of today, teams of lawyers were being stationed in the various hotels to provide legal assistance to the families in filling out applications for compensation.

Construction and Housing Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav reported that representatives of his ministry are located in the hotels in order to assist the families. He added that as of now, approximately 200 rental flats are in the process of being signed, most of which are concentrated in several clusters that are designed to serve large groups of settlers who are interested in maintaining their communal character.

Education Ministry Southern District Director Amira Haim told ministers that there are 73 students in northern Samaria for whom alternate educational frameworks have been found. In Gush Katif, she said that approximately 640 students have already been signed up at alternate schools and an additional 942 students have informed the Education Ministry where they intend to go.  She said that 828 parents are refusing to cooperate with the Ministry and have not given the necessary information in order to assign their children to alternate schools. She said that Ministry supervisors are personally accompanying the families and are seeing to it that they are provided with solutions, with the families due to be accompanied during the coming academic year and even later if necessary. A Ministry team is currently supervising cultural activities at the various hotels.

The Committee decided that the contents of synagogues would be moved to inside Israel; possible alternatives to moving the structures would be examined. The Director of Religious Services in the PMO, Meir Spiegler, said that two synagogues – from Nisanit and Pe’at Sadeh – have been evacuated so far; the contents of the remaining synagogues in the area will be evacuated as soon as the requisite Defense Ministry approval is received.

Prime Minister Sharon told the representatives of the various ministries that: “Everything must be carried out immediately. I specially reiterate the issue of establishing agricultural communities in the Negev.”