(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today (Wednesday), 7 September 2005, convened a meeting of the Ministerial Disengagement Committee in order discuss implementing solutions for moving communities and assisting residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Director-General Ilan Cohen updated ministers on contacts between government representatives and representatives of settlers from the various evacuated communities.  PMO Dir.-Gen. Cohen said that there are contacts with all those communities that have yet to agree on an alternate housing solution for them, and added that approximately 1,000 families have already submitted requests for compensation; the remaining hundreds of families are not taking the necessary steps.

The Committee approved Prime Minister Sharon’s proposed directives, which were made following consultations with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, to the effect that the special committee defined in the Disengagement Implementation Law will be able to approve awarding grants that were to be conditioned on residents leaving areas designated for evacuation within 48 hours of the determined date, also to those who left later, provided that they did not act violently when they left the area.

The Justice Ministry submitted its opinion according to which the grants that will be paid out according to law, on the condition that the settlers left the area at the correct time are as follows: A grant based on the amount of time they had been living there, in amounts of hundreds of thousands of shekels; a grant for citizens moving to the Negev, Galilee or Ashkelon amounting to NIS 135,000; reimbursement of property purchase tax between NIS 20-30,000; and a grant for moving and reorganizing of NIS 21,000. This amount will not be returned to those who did not evacuate their movable property. Each grant will be determined individually, and the committee members will decide according to each case, how much will be returned. From preliminary information, it appears that approximately 1,000 families had left the evacuated area before the expiry of the 48 hours deadline; a significant number of families who left after that time did so in an orderly manner and in coordination with the army. This decision will be submitted to the Knesset Finance Committee as soon as possible.

SELA Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi said that as of today approximately 1,000 families are living in hotels around the country. Basi reported that a planning consultant has been assigned to every group of settlers who remain in hotels, in order to help the communities decide on their alternate living arrangements, which will be suitable for the character of the community.

Following the need for extra funds to finance those staying in hotels, the Committee directed those professional experts to draft a budgetary proposal. The proposal will include incentives to leave the hotels and move to temporary or permanent housing. Prime Minister Sharon said, “In the current situation, those residing in hotels are also receiving rent funds. It must be clear to everyone that they must move out of the hotels in a gradual and orderly manner.”

Prime Minister Sharon commented on the demolition of the synagogues and said, “We respect the High Court of Justice’s decision and we turned to the Palestinian Authority, which rejected our request and said that we must demolish the synagogues.”

PMO Dir.-Gen. Cohen said that he toured Gush Katif yesterday and noted that the synagogues had been emptied of their contents. Prime Minister’s Office Director of Religious Services Meir Spiegler said that 145 trucks have been used to remove the contents to a special storage area, where they have been labeled and are being secured. He added that the contents would be moved to alternate synagogues in Israel. The Torah scrolls are being kept in a separate area under the supervision of the IDF Rabbinate.

Defense Ministry Deputy Director-General Victor Bar Gil reported that the following has been removed from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria: 1,100 trees, 1,375 containers, and 26 private cars and 19 buses that were left in the area.  He added that a professional team is currently checking the deluxe mobile homes in Nitzan to prevent potential problems ahead of the winter rains.

The Committee agreed to transfer a further NIS 11.5 million to those authorities absorbing evacuated residents.  The authorities are: the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council (550 housing units), the Nahal Sorek Regional Council (300 housing units), the City of Ashkelon (150 housing units), the Sapir Regional Council (80 housing units), the Golan Regional Council (70 housing units), the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council (60 housing units), the Eshkol Regional Council (40 housing units), the Gilboa Regional Council (35 housing units), the Asher Regional Council (25 housing units) and the Emek Hefer Regional Council (25 housing units).