(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Sharon this morning (Wednesday, 23 November) convened a meeting of the Ministerial Disengagement Committee in order to hold a further discussion of regarding assistance to residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.  Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and various ministries’ directors-general attended the discussion.

The committee approved the establishment of a temporary residential site at moshav Amatzia for 65 families from the evacuated communities of Katif and Neveh Dekalim.  The families’ permanent residences will also be at Amatzia.

Preparatory work is currently underway at Amatzia, including the purchase of mobile structures and public structures, preliminary ground work, the construction of a water purification facility, etc.  The committee approved NIS 26 million in costs for establishing the residential site.  Prime Minister Sharon said: “There is no doubt that building communities in the south is very important and steps such as these greatly contribute to the development of the area.”  Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Director-General Ilan Cohen added that, “The vast majority of the residents will maintain their communal way of life.”

The ministers approved a plan for developing the ground and establishing infrastructures for two additional communities – Halutzit 1 and Halutzit 4 – that are due to absorb families from the Gaza Strip.  The plan entails – inter alia – preparing approximately 2,000 dunams of agricultural land for greenhouses, drainage work, paving roads, water and electricity hook-ups, fencing, etc.  The committee approved an overall budget of approximately NIS 20.8 million for the establishment of these two communities.  Halutzit 4 is due to absorb a group of residents from Atzmona and farmers from throughout Gush Katif.  Halutzit 1 is due to absorb a group of residents from Netzarim and additional farmers from throughout Gush Katif.

The ministers instructed the Construction and Housing Ministry to complete construction of public structures at the following temporary residential sites: Yad Binyamin, Yated, Yad Hannah, and Ein Tzurim.

Prime Minister Sharon instructed SELA Disengagement Authority and Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry representatives to formulate a plan to render additional assistance to evacuees who have yet to find new jobs.  This plan will apparently include offering employers incentives to hire evacuees.

Prime Minister Sharon also instructed PMO Director-General Cohen to cooperate with Government Companies Authority and Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry representatives in coming up with a format to facilitate the absorption into government companies of employees from the evacuated communities within a short time.  PMO Director-General Cohen said that, “We must constantly come up with creative solutions.  We will cooperate on formulating a plan to render additional employment assistance and submit it to the government for approval.”

The ministers instructed Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry representatives to operate a professional training program for evacuated Gush Katif farmers in order to assist them in moving their activities to the new areas the climate and ground conditions of which may be different from what they had become used to.  The ministry will offer two professional training frameworks to Gush Katif farmers: One at the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, where they will be able to study, five days a week for one year, and the second at an experimental farm in the Eshkol Regional Council area, one day a week for eight months.  Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry Director-General Yossi Yishai stressed that, “This is an excellent opportunity to utilize the evacuated residents’ time for an important goal.  Thus the residents will receive quality academic training.”

The ministers decided to provide assistance to families who are moving to moshav Bustan Hagalil and are interested in developing tourist enterprises in the area.  These are 30 families from the Gaza Strip who are seeking to establish permanent residences at Bustan Hagalil and work in tourism.  The committee decided that a format would be formulated that would enable the government to provide financial support to all families that establish guest houses.

The ministers also approved budgetary assistance – in order to cover expenses – to the city of Ashkelon, which is expected to absorb approximately 60 families from Kfar Darom.

SELA Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi informed the ministers that contacts are currently being held with approximately 35 families from Neveh Dekalim who would like to move to Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked everyone and said: “Preference for the Negev and the eastern Lachish area is very important.  These areas must be developed; this is a priority of the highest importance.”