Exclusive: Bassi pushes for more compensation

By David Horovitz May 3, 2005

Sela, the Disengagement Authority charged by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with overseeing logistics for the 8,000 or so Israelis being evacuated from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria this summer, has drawn up proposed new legislation to raise compensation payments for some settlers, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The draft amendment, designed to improve some clauses in the scale of payments set out in Knesset-approved compensation laws, is to be discussed by the government in the next few days.

Specifically, the Post has been told, Sela head Yonatan Bassi believes it is unfair that some families may be eligible for only a few tens of thousands of dollars in compensation for their homes – a sum he considers tantamount to throwing them into the street.

Compensation for prefabricated homes, under the current legislation, is calculated at $700 per square meter. A family with an 80-sq.m. home, therefore, would be eligible for some $56,000 – a payment, Bassi is said to feel, that is too low to secure reasonable alternative housing.

Moreover, settlers are included in compensation calculations only from the age of 21 – whereas Bassi considers that they should be fully taken into account from 18, and that even children of 10 and up should be factored into payments to some degree.

To try to correct these and other perceived imbalances, the Post has been told, Sela has drafted an amendment to the Disengagement Implementation Law, and it is be presented to the government for consideration in the next week or two.

Bassi is understood not to be concerned that the prospect of increased compensation will slow what is in any case only a trickle of Gaza families contacting Sela to sign on for compensation. This is because any increased rate of compensation will be applied retroactively even to families that have already concluded compensation deals.

Bassi is also said to consider it appropriate that Sela has drafted the amendment, rather than it coming from an individual MK, since, the Post has been told, he feels it is better that the authority overseeing the arrangements and dealing with the specifics on a daily basis initiate what it considers to be essential changes to the law.

Overall, Bassi believes the compensation terms are reasonable – more generous than envisaged early in the legislative process, but not excessively so. The overall cost of compensation, for homes and businesses, is expected to total some $1 billion.

Families will receive an average of $200,000 to $300,000. In contrast with some of those evacuated from the Sinai settlements, Gaza’s evacuees will not be paid double the value of their homes, Bassi believes, but, rather, the fair value of their homes.

To date the Disengagement Authority has received slightly less than 100 of 1,700 expected claims for compensation, while hundreds more have turned to the courts seeking higher sums.

Late Monday night, the government and settlers met to discuss the compensation issue and to try to hammer out a group solution for the evacuated settlers.

Among the possible solutions is the expansion of the community of Nitzan within the larger Nitzanim area, which has developed 100 of its 500 approved units, thereby leaving 400 more for Gaza settlers. The government is also considering developing 1,000 homes in the open area by the sea that lies within the Ashkelon municipal boundaries.

The settlers, represented by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, have opposed the Ashkelon plan because they prefer to be governed by their own local council rather than having to operate within the Ashkelon Municipality.

Their preference would be the open area which abuts the sand dunes of Nitzanim.

Copyright © The Jerusalem Post