Settlers being evacuated from Gush Katif during disengagement
Police evacuating settlers from Gush Katif during the 2005 disengagement. Photo by Uriel Sinai
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The Knesset on Wednesday approved the first reading of a bill that would grant compensation to business owners evacuated from Gaza settlements during the disengagement in 2005. The bill passed by a 39-MK majority.

The proposal was motioned by a number of lawmakers from different parties, including Zeev Elkin (Likud) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union). The proposal seeks to anchor in legislation a final agreement to be reached between evacuated business owners and the director of "Momentum," the body which, under its former name of the Disengagement Authority, handled the compensation for settlers evacuated from Gaza.

The proposed bill promises a basic pension income to proprietors whose businesses collapsed following the disengagement, and have not yet resumed activity. Under the terms of the bill, this income would be calculated according to past net earnings and revenues. In addition, the motion proposes to boost the momentum of these businesses by the provision of funds for rehabilitation.

This bill is the first in a series of proposals to implement the conclusions of a committee of inquiry into the competence of the Disengagement Authority in handling the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza, and four settlements in the northern West Bank. The inquiry was headed by retired judge Joshua Matza.

According to the findings of the panel, "The Committee established unequivocally that the restoration and rehabilitation of the businesses of Gaza Strip and North Samaria [West Bank] evacuees should be a national priority, not just on paper but in practice… Without the necessary amendments it is impossible to restore the status of businesses and business owners in Gush Katif to the state they were in prior to the implementation of the disengagement plan. It is the legal obligation and a moral responsibility of the country to rehabilitate the businesses and to facilitate their restoration in a dignified manner."

Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin said Wednesday that the bill, "is the first step in regulating the rehabilitation of Gosh Katif and Samaria evacuees. Five years after the disengagement, it's time for the welfare state to take care of evacuated business owners so they may continue their lives in spite of past traumas. Accordingly, government support for this law is welcomed and warranted."