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Gaza settlers were 'failed by the state'

    A new report into the fate of the settlers evacuated from Gaza has accused successive Israeli governments of "absolute and complete failure" in dealing with them.

    The state commission inquiry showed that 70 per cent of the settlers, who were forced to leave their Gush Katif homes following the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, have still not been found permanent homes.

    A large majority of the 9,000 evacuees have not been properly compensated and are currently living in temporary dwellings.

    The state made the evacuees "refugees in their own country", said the report.

    Former settlers from Gush Katif said that the writing had been on the wall from the time of the Gaza withdrawal. Hagit Yaron, a former Gush Katif community organiser, said: "I feel worn-out from saying 'we told you so', which is what we've been saying for five years."

    The chair of the Inquiry into the Handling by the Authorised Authorities of the Evacuees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, Eliyahu Matza, warned that the state's failure to fulfil its obligations towards the evacuees would impede future withdrawals. Other settlers will not agree to leave their homes as long as they can see that the Gaza settlers have been neglected.

    "Five years after the evacuation, an examination of the results discloses an extremely dismal picture," he told a press conference.

    "Most of the evacuees are still living in temporary caravan sites; the construction of most of the permanent housing has not yet commenced; the decisive majority of the public structures in the evacuees' new settlements have not yet been built; the rate of unemployment among the evacuees is double the rate of unemployment in the general population; the economic state of some of the evacuees is very bad, and there are more than a few among them in need of assistance from the welfare entities… it was therefore found that the work of rehabilitating the evacuees is far from completed."

    Another member of the commission, Yedidia Stern, said that "the disengagement resulted in the gravest harm to civil rights in the history of the state. There's a profound problem of an inability to assist people who were hurt by the state."

    The report put the blame for the failure largely on former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon, but added that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu risked becoming part of the problem if he did not find a quick solution. The authors added that some of the evacuated settlers shared responsibility for their own situation as they delayed finding new homes.

    The committee set a deadline of 2011 for placing the majority of evacuated settlers in permanent housing and dismantling their temporary dwellings.

    The Prime Minister said that it was "our obligation as a government" to bring the settlers into permanent homes, and that he would not "tolerate foot-dragging".

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