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For what exactly should we be compensating the settlers who will be evacuated from Gaza? For the damage they caused the state for decades? For the scandalous economic price of their living in Gaza? For the blood needlessly spilled over them?

Most settled in the territories for the chance of cheap housing on tempting terms. Others went there out of messianic ideology. Some settled there legitimately, as it were, with government approval, while others did so through land-grabs. All knew ahead of time that the land they were settling was politically disputed and its future uncertain, so it is they who are responsible for the decision they took.

Nonetheless, the state must supply modest alternative accommodation for authorized settlers, exclusively within the 1967 borders. Those who indulged in illegal land grabs are not entitled even to that, and those who do not agree to leave voluntarily should know they will lose that privilege.

To those who are calling for empathy toward these settlers, we must say they do not deserve empathy since they never showed consideration for the feelings of others. There is not and never has been in the history of the state such a destructive and immoral enterprise as the settlement enterprise. From the start it was established to undermine any and every chance for a peace agreement and to erect a defensive barrier against any just solution.

It was born out of territorial greed and continued to criminally disinherit the Palestinians. The settlers settled on land they had stolen, or which was stolen for them; the harm inherent in their actions not only did not trouble them, but some even went out of their way to hurt their neighbors - and so there is no moral basis for compensating them.

No other community in Israel has enjoyed such benefits, exemptions and social prestige reserved for those in the vanguard. On top of it all, they received the state's protection. Bus passengers in cities and residents in outlying places, who are also exposed daily to dangers, never received such protection. A massive deployment is required to guard the settlers' safety day and night. Their children are protected to a far greater degree than any other Israeli children, who are also in danger.

This reality has never come up for serious public debate in Israel, except by speakers clearly identified with the left. Somehow, the settlers became the most powerful lobby in Israeli society. A country plagued by unemployment and poverty nonchalantely decided there was one group more important for which there was no budget crisis.

One government after another - left and right - carried on funding their whims and inflating the settlement enterprise to monstrous proportions. There is no growth in Israel like their growth. They dragged the state's name through the mud and caused irreparable damage to Israel's diplomacy and image. No one in the non-Jewish world was prepared to justify their enterprise - aside from a few American fundamentalist dreamers - but Israeli governments and the public granted them legitimacy and resources that came at the expense of the vital needs of much worthier communities.

Now there is a possibility, for the first time, that a tiny part of this hapless enterprise will come to an end. Shockingly late in the day, we must now hold them to account for the blood they shed in vain. Now is the time to say to them - you extorted enough, you cost us too much, you deserve nothing more.

The state has responsibility for all its citizens, so they should not be left destitute and should be provided with modest alternative housing. Pioneers? Let them go to the Negev, but not a single thing beyond that. A state that won't pay the wages of local council workers can't afford some huge outlay to compensate those whom there is no reason to compensate.

Standing in line ahead of them are are residents of poor towns, some of whom were also "sent there" - but to a forgone life of penury, without any of the support given to the settlers. There are also Israel's Arab citizens who have suffered so much discrimination all these years, not to mention Palestinians in the territories whose lives have been destroyed and properties ransacked.

Compensate settlers? It's high time they instead compensated the public for all they have done to us and cost us - including all the shame and anguish.