'Gush Katif Settlers to Blame for Their Predicament'

Former manager of aid agency for Gaza Strip residents says community ignored efforts to help them.

Former Gush Katif settlers evacuated from their homes in the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip are largely to blame for their own predicament, the former head of a settler aid agency said Sunday.

Yonatan Bassi, the former manager of the SELA aid authority for Gaza Strip residents, told the official investigation commission into the treatment of Gush Katif evacuees that community leaders ignored efforts to help them.

"Before the disengagement we turned to all the community leaders, presented the alternatives, but as the disengagement drew closer, the rift with the residents grew," Bassi said, "The state went to great lengths to give an answer to every community."

"The cow wants to feed more than the calf wants to eat."

Bassi also accused community leaders, including the rabbi of the local council, of believing the disengagement would not go ahead and of preventing cooperating with his aid agency.

"For our part we met with individuals and groups. We established a Web site. We sent letters, which they burned," he said.

Earlier, the commission held a press conference in which it presented the situation facing the Gush Katif evacuees.

According to the data, only 60-70 percent of the 1400 families evacuated from Gush Katif currently live in permanent housing.

Doron Ben Shlomi, who heads the commission, estimated that mobile and temporary homes will continue to exist in another two years, and that around 300 families cannot leave their temporary housing because they have no means to build permanent homes.

"Their compensation payments have been eaten up by day-to-day expenses. They have no work, they have no way of taking out a mortgage, and therefore they can not build permanent housing for themselves," he said.