Gush Katif Planning for Day After Disengagement

July 7, 2008 - 8:16 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip are taking a two-pronged approach toward the government's decision to uproot them -- protests and planning for the day after.

All 21 Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank are scheduled to be evacuated this summer as part of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

The 9,500 people affected by the plan fought it in parliament without success. The YESHA council -- the main body overseeing all the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- has organized massive demonstrations against the plan. Now the settlers have taken their cause to the Israel's Supreme Court.

Lawyers representing hundreds of families filed 12 petitions in Israel's High Court this week. Several petitions are aimed at stopping the disengagement altogether, but most deal with the issue of compensation and one seeks to have two northern Gaza Strip settlements exempted from the plan altogether, said attorney Sarita Maoz.

Most of the Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip are in the central and southern region, but Elei Sinai and Nisanit are located much further north, along the boundary with Israel.

"[We] claim that [Elei Sinai and Nisanit] should not have been inside the disengagement plan because they are so near to the green line," said Maoz, refering to the invisible line that runs between Israel and the Gaza Strip and Israel and the West Bank.

"They are just 10 meters [about 30 feet] from the green line," said Maoz, who is also a resident of Elei Sinai. Leaving those two settlements as they are would mean that about 400 families, or 25 percent of the people who are now slated to be removed would not have to suffer, she added.

Anita Tucker, a longtime resident of Netzer Hazani, is another one of the petitioners. She wants the disengagement stopped altogether on the grounds that it is "immoral, unethical [and] against the establishment of the State of Israel."

Tucker, a farmer, lives in Netzer Hazani, with about 80 other families -- the majority of them involved in agriculture.

According to Tucker, the petitioners have invited the 11 High Court judges who will rule on the petitions to first visit Gush Katif, which they hope will have an impact on the judges' decisions.

Until they see it in "real life," she said, they have "no conception what it's about."

Tucker said she prefers not to think about the compensation issue or what would happen if she is forced to move out.

"I try to keep away from it," said Tucker. "It weakens me."

There are some people who have asked for appraisals of their possessions in case they are removed, Tucker said, but she is not one of them.

"My personal main battle as a citizen of the world and a citizen of Israel [is] we cannot let this terror win," said Tucker.

(Many Israelis argue that giving up settlements without demonstrable progress from the Palestinians - who have attacked Israelis for four years -- will only encourage more terrorism.)

Nevertheless, she said, the government has an obligation to resettle the residents of Gush Katif in a "humane and normal way."

On the issue of compensation, for instance, she said, one of her sons married a neighbor. Now the grandchildren can go back and forth between their grandparents' homes. "How are they replacing a situation like that? How are they going to compensate [for it]?" she asked.

The only way to move would be as a group, she said. But she isn't interested in talking about a proposed deal to move the entire community to an area between the Israeli coastal cities of Askelon and Ashdod.

Friction


The Nitzanim plan, named for a nearby sand dune nature preserve, would attempt to resettle the bulk of the families in new several communities there.

A small group of settlers approached the government on behalf of Gush Katif some months ago and proposed the plan.

But it has caused some friction among Gush Katif residents who believe that negotiating resettlement plans with the government will undermine their demand that the disengagement plan be scrapped altogether. Others believe that they must plan ahead in case the disengagement actually takes place.

"No one is for [the disengagement]," said one resident who has been negotiating with the government on the Nitzanim plan. "We are in favor of having a place for people to go."

The plan includes setting up a bloc of communities, including a regional council, schools and parks. The agriculture, which is the backbone of the economy in Gush Katif, would be located nearby, he said.

But even if the plan is accepted, that does not mean that Gush Katif residents will pack up and move out on their own, the resident indicated.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who has been negotiating with settler representatives regarding the Nitzanim plan, said the settlers are expected to refrain from violence if they agree to take part in the alternative resettlement project.

Sharon said that the settlers would not be forced to declare their support for the disengagement process but it they would be expected to avoid "undertake illegal actions."

"We will [fight it] by democratic means," said the resident who was involved in the negotiations. If the government throws the residents out without proper compensation, "there will be a battle," he said.

"We will make a problem. We can't be refugees."

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