The Same Old Tune

The 300 trailers will also remain empty, and hundreds of millions more will be wasted. Fertile ground for the state comptroller, who will once again investigate who imported the trailers. Are they by any chance connected to the Likud Central Committee?

It was quite clear that one day the trailers would arrive, too. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is simply unable to manage without them. He missed them so much.

In 1990, at the beginning of the large wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union, he was appointed minister of housing. He didn't for a moment consider the possibility of allowing the contractors to decide where to build, according to market demand. Sharon has never believed in the free market. He has a Bolshevist worldview of administration from above. That's why he decided where to build, how to build, and according to what standard. Then he gave the contractors government guarantees of 100 percent, and turned them into millionaires.

The result was one housing project after another, built in inappropriate locations, at a low standard and in places where the new immigrants didn't want to live. A large proportion remained empty. The same fate awaited the thousands of trailers that he purchased for billions of shekels. Fifteen thousand trailers stood empty for years, ruined by the rain and the sun, causing the government to lose billions.

And now the same old tune is playing. This week, the special interministerial committee for the disengagement recently established by Sharon quickly approved, without consideration and without a market survey, an order for 300 trailers for those being evacuated, to be set up in four locations. They will also remain empty, and hundreds of millions more will be wasted. Fertile ground for the state comptroller, who will once again investigate who imported the trailers. Are they by any chance connected to the Likud Central Committee?

The affair of the trailers is only one example of the Disengagement Administration's failure. It had all the time in the world to set guidelines that would have prevented confusion and disgrace, but it did not do so.

The first principle should have been fair compensation for each family. The second principle: Freedom of choice. Each family should decide on its own, without government baby-sitting, where to go and what to do with their money.

The third principle: No evacuation by force. The Israel Defense Forces should leave the Gaza Strip on July 20, and after that date, nobody would protect the settlers. Anyone who has visited the Gaza Strip and seen the tanks, the fences and the soldiers understands that when the army leaves, the settlers will leave a day earlier. They are well aware of how much the Arab residents of the Gaza Strip love them.

With these principles, the entire picture would be different. Each settler would understand that his fate is in his hands. That he himself is deciding on his future.

The crazy idea of establishing a "new Gush Katif" on the sands of Nitzanim at the expense of the nature reserve would never have seen the light of day, because it is entirely a product of the self-interest of the wheeler-dealers and office-holders in the Gaza Coast Regional Council, who want to retain their source of income. And the Tisha B'Av maneuver should have been rejected by Yonatan Bassi and Sharon, because it's only another attempt at postponement.

A tour of Gush Katif presents the disengagement in a different light. A group of 7,500 people turned the life of the 1.3 million Arabs into a hell. They appropriated a large percentage of the land and the water and cut off the residents of Khan Yunis from the sea. The roads are for Israelis only; the local residents travel on twisting dirt roads strewn with roadblocks. The occupation has caused an employment rate of 60 percent! One factory in the settlement of Kfar Darom (an enclave inside the Dir al-Balah refugee camp) uses more water to wash bugs out of lettuce than all the drinking water allotted for the residents of the refugee camp. Apartheid at its most shameful.

The farmers of Gush Katif are demanding an increase to the compensation offered them. They have forgotten the generous government assistance they received when they came to the Gush: Grants, loans and free land. Nor are they talking about what pains them the most: The cost of labor. At present, they pay residents of Khan Yunis who work in their hothouses NIS 40 for a long and hard day's work: Shameful exploitation in conditions of slavery. When they move northward they will be forced to pay the minimum wage. Is such a scandal possible?

Therefore, before we pity them, we should pity the Jewish people, which has paid for this superfluous adventure in blood and money, and only now, belatedly, has decided to put an end to the disgraceful apartheid in the Gaza Strip.