The Committee Failed, Not the State

I haven't read such a warped, mistaken and one-sided report in a long while. It turns black into white, rewards the cynics who blackmailed the government for years, and slams the officials and politicians who bent over backward to help the evacuees - and were repaid with slander and scorn.

The report accuses the state of failure, of infringing on the evacuees' rights, of being responsible for their high unemployment, of squandering funds. It's all the state's fault.

The committee also seems to blame the state for not paying out millions to each and every evacuee, indiscriminately. Who cares if they only rented a place in Gush Katif for a few months? Why not enjoy some fine living at the state's expense?

The findings are so absurd that the committee even blames the state for failing to prevent illegal construction at the evacuees' temporary housing sites. In other words, the evacuees broke the law and built 150 illegal structures, but they are innocent and the state is guilty. And though the report does criticize the evacuees, it treats them with kid gloves: "Some of the evacuees" chose to "delay," and others made "exaggerated demands."

The fundamental problem with the report is its misunderstanding of the evacuation process. The committee could not comprehend that all the problems, the waste and the delays stemmed from the behavior of the evacuees, who did all they could to stop the evacuation from taking place. The committee completely forgot that this was a highly political community, well organized and with a clear goal. The committee also forgot that for months, the Disengagement Administration (Sela ) begged the Gush Katif settlers to come discuss the matter, to file claims and to say what they actually wanted. They responded by publicly burning Sela's letters.

And when they finally did come to Sela, they used lawyers to submit a never-ending list of demands. This is how the cost of the disengagement reached the astronomical sum of NIS 10 billion: NIS 7.4 billion for the evacuees and NIS 2.6 billion for the army. That is double the original estimate and much, much more than the Sinai evacuees got. Still, we hear that the Gaza evacuees are "deprived."

At first, the government suggested an appropriate compensation scheme: generous financial compensation for each family, period. No special authority and no babysitting. The idea was that each family would take the money and decide what to do with it. This would wean them from the state and quickly bring the matter to an end. But the evacuees didn't want to be weaned. They wanted the disengagement to remain an open wound for years, so that no political leader would dream of staging another one.

That is also why they wanted "complete care" rather than "financial compensation." They demanded money, and land for construction, and the establishment of an authority that would be their address for all demands, their private babysitter. The authority would rent hotels, set up temporary lodgings, find jobs for them, sponsor day care for their kids, give them extra funds for air conditioning and build new communities for them, because joining existing communities was beneath them. And when you have a designated authority with a budget, the demands never end.

So if the government can be blamed for anything at all, it is for yielding to pressure to change the compensation scheme. But it most certainly cannot be accused of "the greatest blow to civil rights in Israel's history," to quote commission member Prof. Yedidia Stern. Quite the contrary: The evacuees got humane, considerate, generous and kindly treatment. But no inquiry commission would dare to speak this simple truth.