(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this afternoon (Monday), 1 August 2005, chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Disengagement Committee.  He made the following remarks at the start of the meeting:

“We are in the two weeks before the disengagement. Over half of the eligible residents have already filed applications. I appeal to those who still have not: We are in the last minute. You must apply now and not delay. Do not be led to believe that the disengagement will not be implemented. The disengagement will be implemented.  Apply now to the Disengagement Authority. Every day that you do not do so is a day wasted. Prepare yourselves for evacuation and the day after. There are solutions for all those who want one. We see residents moving into Nitzan, Yad Binyamin and into rental apartments until the completion of home construction. Those who will build will receive rental payments for two years. Those who will not build will receive rental payments for one year. It would be a pity to waste even a moment, there are apartments for everyone, there is an arrangement for everyone.

We have heard about tent cities. The idea of a tent city at a time when there are places for everyone is a political provocation. It is a pity that people are suffering due to political provocations. The Government has prepared solutions for everyone. It would be a serious mistake to agree to this provocation.”

Participants at the meeting discussed the format of assistance for settlers regarding the evacuation of their movable private property. The Committee’s decision distinguishes between three main groups of settlers: Settlers who evacuate their movable property before evacuation day, residents who announce their intention to leave the area no later than evacuation day itself but who will not evacuate their movable property and residents who leave their movable property in their residences in the area after evacuation day. Treatment of each group is different both regarding the amount of assistance that the Government will be able to provide residents and regarding the costs entailed in evacuating the movables from the area.

According to the Committee’s decision, any resident who requests to evacuate their movable property before evacuation day (15 August 2005) will be able to apply to the Disengagement Authority and request assistance. The Authority will coordinate removing the movable property either in trucks or containers and the transportation to the locality chosen by the resident. The resident will be eligible to have one or two containers stored at a location specially chosen by the Defense Ministry, without charge, until 31 October 2005. By that date, the resident must state where he wants to receive the contents of the container; the container will be brought to that location and unpacked. The cost of the transportation will be deducted from the transportation grant that he is eligible for but will not be greater than half of the transportation grant.  Using two containers for each family is to enable the transportation of one container that contains immediately vital equipment for use by the family at its temporary housing site and one that contains the rest of its movable property, which will be stored for three months.

A resident who announces his intention to leave no later than 16 August 2005 will be able to request assistance from either the Disengagement Authority or the security establishment in order to pack his movable property and prepare it for transportation. In such cases, the cost of evacuating the movable property will be borne by the resident and will be deducted from the transportation grant to which he is eligible but will not be granter than 100% of the transportation grant.

Regarding residents who leave their movable property in the area after evacuation day, it has been decided that the Defense Ministry will make such effort as permitted by circumstances to pack and evacuate their movable property. Items that must be disassembled or equipment that is outside the home will not be evacuated. In such cases, the cost of evacuating the movable property will be deducted from the transportation grant to which residents are eligible but will not be granter than 100% of the transportation grant.

The Defense Ministry has reported that it has, thus far, purchased approximately 2,500 containers for storage purposes.

It must be emphasized that according to the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, the state need not evacuate movable property that is left in the area after evacuation day but will do so despite this fact.

The Committee made two other decisions regarding assistance to Gush Katif farmers:

It was decided to approve loans to cover the loss of a growing season for farmers who move their activities from the evacuated areas. This proposal takes into account the issue of the time needed to set up a new farm. The amount of the loans will be approximately 12% of the overall earnings of the farmer over a five-year period.

The Committee also decided to offer commercial training assistance to Gush Katif farmers who move their farms.  In this framework, farmers will be assisted throughout the process of building and implementing new business plans.  Each farmer will be allocated the first approximately 20 hours of training assistance at 90% Government financing. The training hours will be increased to the extent necessary.

The Committee decided to provide assistance to local authorities that absorb residents from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria in proportion to the number of families absorbed by the various local authorities.

Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi informed ministers that the Authority would provide immediate advances of NIS 50,000 to all residents whose eligibility will be checked in an accelerated process. He also said that approximately 900 families have, so far, filed applications for compensation.

The Committee approved Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s proposal that civil servants who are obliged to move as a result of the disengagement will be reassigned within the civil service. Such civil servants will also be eligible for 10 days’ vacation.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked those involved and said that he was satisfied with the pace of work.