Influx of Compensation Requests Expected in Light of Court Ruling

Expanded court panel rules that pullout is legal, increases benefits for Gaza evacuees.

The Disengagement Administration is expecting to receive an influx of compensation requests from Gaza settlers, in the wake of Thursday's High Court of Justice decision upholding the legality of the disengagement plan and increasing possible benefits for evacuees.

An expanded High Court panel on Thursday removed a major legal obstacle to the government's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank.

The 11-judge panel, headed by Chief Justice Aharon Barak, also determined that "Judea and Samaria [West Bank] and the Gaza area are lands seized during warfare, and are not part of Israel."

The court also increased the compensation benefits to which Gaza evacuees are entitled.

The panel rejected 12 petitions by opponents to the withdrawal from all Gaza Strip and four northern West Bank settlements, ruling the pullout can go ahead as planned and does not violate the settlers' human rights.

The justices ruled that the disengagement plan as presently envisaged is legal and that its implementation poses no constitutional problems.

Justice Edmund Levy cast the sole dissenting vote in the 10-1 decision, calling for the plan to be cancelled.

The judges ruled that the evacuation of settlements do affect human rights, including "the right to property, freedom of occupation and proper respect for the evacuees," but determined that it was a measured violation, which was not excessive and was aimed at achieving political and security goals.

The justice system was closely studying the ruling, since some of the petitions demanding the retraction of the law, which was passed by the Knesset in February, deal with constitutional issues.

One such issue was the disengagement's perceived infringement of human rights, which are protected by the Basic Laws.

Court orders technical changes The court rescinded four financial arrangements relating to compensation for the future evacuees.

Settlers: Ruling is irrelevant Yoram Sheftel, an attorney for the settlers, said his expectations were low because the Supreme Court has a tendency of ruling against settlers.

"We didn't expect anything from this court since the petitioners are Jews and patriots," Sheftel said. "This was fully expected. There's no surprise. I'm not disappointed because we didn't have any expectations."

Other settler leaders dismissed the ruling as irrelevant, and vowed to resist the evacuation.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni praised the court's decision, and expressed hope the ruling would defuse potentially violent settler resistance to the evacuation.

"I hope this ruling sends a message to the lone settler that the plan is going ahead," she told Army Radio.

Hints at intervention The first sign that the High Court might intervene in the law's complicated compensation arrangements was given about two weeks ago in an interim injunction issued by Barak in response to a petition by 136 settlers from Nisanit, Homesh and Sa-Nur to freeze the limitation on the amount of time evacuees can submit a new demand for compensation.

The court ruled that the 30 days the law gives would begin not with the submission of the demand to the Disengagement Administration, but rather from the day the final ruling on their petition was handed down.

The Forum of Jurists for the Land of Israel, representing the Gaza Coast Regional Council, asked the High Court to come to Gush Katif, but the justices declined the request.

The court also rejected the settlers' request to have former military chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon explain to the court the security reasoning behind the disengagement plan, which they said the state had not presented to the settlers.