The Government is responsible for, and will continue to bear responsibility for the full rehabilitation of the evacuees of Gush Katif and northern Samaria in every sphere of their lives.

Madam Speaker,
Members of Knesset,

With your permission, Madam Speaker, I will begin my statement with a few words on the subject which is currently occupying the attention of the public in Israel, and perhaps even beyond. I state upfront that if someone is in the mood to fight with the Government about this matter or any other, I do not feel that this is the time for political wrangling. We will have enough opportunities in the Knesset on such matters, as well as others which provoke divisions, and the desire to fight and attack each other. At this moment, the Government and I are busy with one thing only, and that is what is important at this moment – to bring Corporal Gilad Shalit home.

We are investing all our efforts towards this end.  We are prepared for widespread and aggressive action, and have marshaled all the means at our disposal. The Minister of Defense and the security system have formulated a detailed plan, which will provide an answer to the complex situation created.

Israel is prepared for an ongoing campaign against Palestinian terror. In this campaign, we have no intention of compromising with terror, or negotiating with it. We will not surrender to terror, we will not yield to terrorist organizations. We will continue to thwart terror and act against every target. Not a single terrorist will be immune. The goal of the actions we will take is not to punish the civilian Palestinian population, but to realize our current central purpose, to return our son, Gilad, home. We have no interest in harming innocents, and we will not allow them to harm us.

We announced a general, long-term closure on the Gaza Strip. No one is leaving or entering. We will continue to take every possible action which will assist in realizing our declared purpose. I believe that if we act determinedly and without hesitation – we will succeed!

I do not want to use this discussion to argue or fight about the Disengagement Plan, neither do I wish to outline the point of view which is at the heart of realignment at this time. I have not retreated from the idea or changed my mind about the immense historic importance of the Disengagement Plan. I am convinced that, in the coming years, the State of Israel will realign itself in new borders, which will obligate us to deploy ourselves differently from the way we are deployed now in the settlement blocs of Judea and Samaria, to a border which will be a secure border, and into a completely different reality from the one we have lived in over the last 40 years.

I have no doubt that it would be better to enter this process through negotiation, and even under the difficult circumstances we face these days, we will make every effort to find a path which will allow us to conduct negotiations with Palestinian officials who meet the conditions set by the international community regarding the cessation of terror, dismantling of terrorist organizations, fulfillment of agreements signed by Israel, and the recognition of the State of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

However, I wish to say one thing without getting into an argument about what has been – that is that in this complicated situation in which we find ourselves, we do not have to keep 15,000 soldiers in the heart of Gaza, in the heart of this volcano, to protect the Jewish communities that were there.

We never stopped recognizing our right to enter any place necessary to defend the citizens of Israel – not to establish communities, not to build outposts, but to defend the security of the Israeli people, and then come home. Despite all the claims I hear these days, the number of rocket attacks on Israeli targets in the south has not increased, it has even decreased.

All the doubters and predictors of doom have continued to do what they have been best at over the last few years. However, the facts are obvious and unequivocal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I speak of the matter at hand in today’s discussion, I would like to state, regardless of the argument between the supporters and the objectors, and without clouding for one second the clear positions I took, I will go further and say that I initiated them from the beginning, and even today I believe that they were justified, correct and important. From the very first moment, I did not hide my opinion that for people who lived in a home or community for over 30 years, the process of evacuation was undoubtedly a devastating process and an inconceivable human tragedy. I need no reminder here in this house to know how painful and how difficult it was. There is no doubt, and irrespective of the question of how politically important the evacuation was to the national interest, the majority of Israelis supported it. When referring to each family and person who lived there, was born there, was there for many years, how can anyone conceive that we would not recognize the fact that the evacuation left an impression which will never be erased from the hearts and lives of those who had to leave.

The Government is responsible for, and will continue to bear responsibility for the full rehabilitation of the evacuees of Gush Katif and northern Samaria in every sphere of their lives – their houses, employment – including agriculture, and first and foremost – their children’s education.

I am certain that a significant portion of the difficulty which exists today originates from the desire of the governmental system to approach something difficult in an objective manner, and that is to not provide general answers in accordance with a uniform pattern set in stone by legislation determined from the start in the Knesset. Rather, we are providing individual, specific solutions which can provide an answer to the needs of various groups and subsets of those groups, even if it obligates a deviation from predetermined patterns.

At the same time, the tools at our disposal, including the Evacuation and Compensation Law which the previous Knesset enacted, are essentially general in nature, and our desire, which derives from our understanding of the special difficulties faced by various groups in this population, is to provide them with special solutions, which in turn obligates an investment in time which, unfortunately, leads to a very difficult transition period for these people.

Things must be put in the correct perspective. The Evacuation and Compensation Law was meant to provide a full solution to the evacuees. At the same time, and due to special circumstances in which a significant portion of this population refused to cooperate, under the advice of leaders who failed them, including rabbis. As a result, the process for many of them was delayed and disrupted. And at this time, they are the ones – not those who gave them advice, not those who incited them, not those who pushed them to believe that disengagement would not take place and that there was no need to do anything – they are the ones who suffer.  Not those who gave them advice, they are the ones bearing the burden of the results of this, unfortunately even today.

An example is the temporary housing sites, which – had they not been built – would have left many families still living in hotels to this day.

Let me be specific:

Regarding compensation: as you know, the law determined a uniform, equal and transparent compensation for all evacuees – families, businesses and farms.

Regarding claims on houses: all the evacuees (excluding specific cases) filed claims for their houses. Approximately 80% of them received full compensation. For approximately 20% of the claims, a partial decision was made, and 3% of the claims are still being processed.

The average compensation for a home-owning family living in evacuated areas for over 5 years is NIS 1.4 million.

Regarding claims by the population involved in agriculture: of the 400 farmers in Gush Katif, a third recently filed claims for compensation. Over half of the claimants already received full compensation or an advance. Individual farmers have already begun to renew their activities in communities such as Zikim and Mivke’im and South Ashkelon. Agricultural societies are establishing greenhouses and planting citron trees in the “pioneer” communities.

Regarding claims by businesses: 259 out of 300 business owners have filed claims for compensation. Approximately 70% of the claimants received full or nearly full compensation.

Regarding housing for the evacuees: there are currently 48 families still living in hotels, and are expected to leave the hotels for temporary housing at the end of the month, and no later than the beginning of next month.

Temporary housing: approximately 1,240 families are living in 15 temporary communities.  About 50 additional families will join them at the end of the month.

Permanent housing: approximately 1,300 families have signed up for permanent housing in 19 different communities, and the SELA Administration estimates that an additional 190 families will sign up for houses in the communities of Nitzan and Mirsham.

In the community and social spheres: every community has been assigned a communal guide to help them in the field of communal rehabilitation and communal unity as needed.

In addition, the SELA Administration employs over 100 professionals – psychologists and social workers – so that all who need assistance in the personal, family or communal fields can receive help. These professionals are directly employed by the Administration, Ministries of Welfare and Education, and by the local authorities in the areas in which the evacuees live.

In the field of education: the Ministry of Education made preparations on an unprecedented scale and found alternate educational institutions for the young evacuees. We invested in physical educational infrastructure, such as: building 150 units for a seminary in Yad Binyamin, and 230 housing units for students of the military preparatory course in Yated.

In the field of employment: there are 1,700 people seeking employment among the evacuees.  Currently, 600 evacuees have found work, 700 are in the process of being trained and placed through 4 tenders issued by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, intended to help place evacuees in jobs.

I take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, who even today visited some of these communities, in consultation with me, in accordance with the role his ministry plays in the process of rehabilitation and job placement for these evacuees.

I wish to thank Yonatan Bassi, who served as head of the Administration from its inception.  Yonatan was appointed by Ariel Sharon during one of the most difficult periods for the State of Israel. I take this opportunity to thank Yonatan Bassi for undertaking this difficult and brave mission in a manner which evoked wonder and gratitude. He is a wonderful man, a pioneer from head to toe, a faithful employee of the land of Israel, someone who helped build the land of Israel, a man who worked day and night under difficult circumstances and under impossible constraints, in order to provide fair, humane, and considerate solutions for the evacuees. Many of them – not those who use them for political gains – but many of the evacuees are profoundly grateful for the wonderful treatment they received from him.

I believe that his successor, Ms. Tsviya Shimon, who was part of the senior professional staff on the Civil Service, will successfully continue the treatment of the evacuees.

There is no doubt that the heart of the process of rehabilitation and resettlement is communal treatment. We are speaking of citizens who came to these communities out of a feeling of deep ideological identification, motivated by their love of the land which elicits wonder and appreciation, with a strong feeling that their settling in these places contributed to the power and strength of the State of Israel. For these people, the process of evacuation and destroying the communities was, as I said earlier, a difficult crisis which gave rise to an anger which any process of government assistance and treatment cannot totally erase.

In my role as chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Disengagement, I ordered SELA and other bodies responsible for the evacuees to act determinedly and with perseverance to complete the rehabilitation process as quickly as possible.

The Government will continue to help the evacuees until we find all the solutions for permanent housing, employment and, of course, integrating their children into educational institutions.

I said we have a moral commitment to act until the last of the cases is solved, and to act patiently, with understanding and love, and we will do so.