Settlers to be compensated according to family, house size
The precise amount of compensation to families evacuated from the Gaza Strip will depend on various criteria, including how many children they have, how long they have lived in the settlement, how big their house is, how much land it sits on and where they intend to move after the evacuation, according to sources from the task force currently working on calculating the exact cost of the withdrawal.
Withdrawing from Gaza will cost some NIS 6.5 billion - NIS 4.5 billion to compensate the settlers who are evacuated, plus another NIS 2 billion in security outlays, experts say.
Meanwhile, some residents of the settlements slated for evacuation are hiring their own lawyers, accountants and real estate assessors to prepare their own estimates of fair compensation. The 21 Gaza settlements are home to some 2,000 families, or about 7,000 people.
The only precedent for the evacuation of settlements is that of Yamit and the other Sinai settlements, which were dismantled in 1981 pursuant to the peace treaty with Egypt. The steering committee headed by Justice Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovich is making extensive use of the detailed staff work done then. But that effort proved to be wasted - because when the conclusions were brought to then prime minister Menachem Begin, he barely glanced at them, instead ordering: "Pay them as much as they want."
"There's no guarantee that that won't happen this time as well," commented one member of the task force.
Knowledgeable sources say that the current assessment is that every evacuated family will receive an average of $300,000 in compensation.
Thus compensation for the 2,000 families living in Gaza will run to between NIS 2.7 billion and NIS 3 billion.
In addition, the government will need to spend some $300 million, or between NIS 1.35 billion and NIS 1.5 billion, to compensate people who owned businesses in the Strip and to find alternative employment for all the people who worked in the settlements (schoolteachers, farmers, shopkeepers, etc.)
Finally, there is the cost of the army's redeployment outside the Strip, which is estimated at NIS 2 billion. That brings the total cost to some NIS 6.5 billion.
The government wants the evacuated settlers to move either to towns in the Negev that will be specially built for them, or to settlements in the West Bank. In both of these areas, housing is relatively cheap, so the compensation they receive would be lower.
As for how the government will finance these costs, officials say that they are hoping the United States will help - although officially, both the U.S. and Israel deny that the matter has ever been discussed.
In an interview with Yoel Marcus of Haaretz (February 3, 2004), Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that he had not yet broached this issue with Washington, but "it is clear that I will have to discuss it with them."
The U.S. financed a significant portion of the Sinai evacuation, and it also financed some of Israel's military redeployments pursuant to the Oslo process. The 1998 Wye Agreement, for instance, required Israel to move three army bases from the West Bank to Israel. The Americans built one of the new bases themselves and gave Israel NIS 270 million to finance construction of the other two.
At most, however, American aid is expected to cover only half the costs.
Government officials expect the remainder to be spread out over three fiscal years, thereby significantly easing the budgetary burden. In addition, some of the money raised through the American loan guarantees will go toward these costs. At the moment, the Finance Ministry has no intention of raising taxes or of levying a mandatory loan on the citizenry to finance the evacuation.