JERUSALEM (AP) – The Israeli government caused unnecessary suffering to Israeli settlers removed from their homes during last summer’s Gaza pullout, the state comptroller wrote in a special report released Wednesday.
Israel evacuated 8,500 settlers from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank during a three-week period beginning in mid-August. Many settlers rejected the government decision and refused to plan for or cooperate with their evacuation, offering mostly passive resistance to troops and police who came to haul them out. It marked the first time Israel removed settlements from lands it captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
Government officials were guilty of “serious failures … that compromised the handling of the evacuees and caused unnecessary suffering,” wrote the comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss.
Yonatan Bassi, the head of the authority that oversaw the civilian evacuation, defended his performance, and said the timing of the report’s release, just three weeks before March 28 elections, was politically motivated.
“The facts presented in the comptroller’s report regarding the Disengagement Administration are completely out of context,” Bassi told Israel Radio. Bassi said Lindenstrauss criticized the administration without checking its official policies on matters under question. He also said that problems were exacerbated by the refusal of most settlers to cooperate with his agency, the Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported on its Web site.
Poor planning and handling of the evacuees led to a situation in which 40 percent were still in temporary quarters in hotels three months after the pullout, the report said, though the Prime Minister’s Office, in charge of the operation, expected the settlers to stay in the hotels only two weeks.
Also, the special administration set up to deal with the settlers “failed to achieve one of the main goals of the project, solving social problems,” the comptroller wrote. The report found that the government rented 840 apartments in Israel for the settlers at a cost of 5 million shekels ($1.1 million, ¤900,000), but only 63 families moved into them.
The comptroller also leveled criticism at the leadership of the settlers for refusing to cooperate with the government office handing the evacuation, making it more difficult for the authorities to plan properly.