Tags: Disengagement | Proposal | Angers | Israeli | Environmentalists

Disengagement Proposal Angers Israeli Environmentalists

Friday, 08 April 2005 12:00 AM

The massive relocation plan is a unilateral move on Israel's part, intended to separate Israel from the Palestinians and thereby reduce contact and friction between the two sides, the government says.

Most residents of the Gush Katif settlement bloc are still hoping that the disengagement plan won't happen. Many have lived in those communities for nearly 30 years. They have worked together to build their homes, businesses and communities from the sand dunes up, and raised children and now grandchildren there.

A small group of settlers met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier this week and asked him to relocate the entire Gush Katif settlement bloc, as a group, to an area called the Nitzanim Sands, located between the Israeli coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

The request, which implied capitulation, angered settler leaders in Gush Katif as well as environmentalists. Gush Katif resident Rachel Saperstein said that those who met with Sharon had no right to do so.

"They went as private citizens. They had no permission from the population or the governing council. They went on their own initiative," said Saperstein.

"They caused a great amount of damage [when we are] still working from every avenue against expulsion," she said.

Other residents say that while they oppose the disengagement plan and are struggling to stay in their homes, if the disengagement becomes a reality, it would be better for the communities to stick together and relocate as one unit.

"At least to move as a community is less tragic," said one resident.

Sharon visited the 22,000-dunam (5,500 acre), sand dune park on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, to see if Gush Katif settlers might be allowed to relocate there.

But Yair Farjun, manager of the nature reserve on the sand dunes, said it would be a disaster to turn the nature reserve into a settlement.

"My heart goes out to them," Farjun said of the soon-to-be-displaced Israelis. But why do they have to come here? he asked.

Twenty-five years ago, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel set aside the sand dunes as a public area to save them for future generations. This is the only protected area of its kind along the seashore in Israel. Suddenly, from nowhere they want to put settlers here, Farjun said.

Farjun acknowledged that removing Gush Katif families from their homes was not only a material sacrifice but also an ideological sacrifice for them. But he insisted there is "no excuse to make an environmental sacrifice. There's no justice in it," he said.

Near the Nitzanim sand dune park is the small religious community of Nitzan. There are about 90 families in the quiet community, which is crisscrossed with brick sidewalks and dotted with colorful flowerbeds.

Earlier, the Sharon government proposed adding 450 homes to Nitzan to accommodate Gush Katif settlers. It would take about two years to complete that first phase, during which time the residents would be housed in apartments or trailers in other areas of southern Israel.

Now that offer has been doubled, said an official of SELA, the government body set up to deal with compensation issues.

Some 95 percent of the residents of Nitzan oppose the disengagement, said a resident of Nitzan, who asked not to be named. But if the families from Gush Katif come, Nitzan residents are willing to receive them, he said.

Three people from Gush Katif already bought apartments there several years ago as an investment, he said. "Families live here in the Garden of Eden, paradise," he added.

But houses are only part of the problem. There are about 400 farmers in the Gaza Strip who own about 1,000 acres of greenhouses. Those greenhouses would have to be moved to an agricultural park some 30 minutes away, said the official who asked not to be named.

Yossi Tsarfati, an agriculture manager in Gush Katif, said that living far from the hot houses is a problem because the "intensive agriculture" area needs daily care.

"We are not ready to give up the community life...If they want to evacuate, we want to be together with the agriculture nearby," said Tsarfati.

"There is a big problem because the government is saying all the time, 'You will leave' but no one is worrying about what will happen the day after," he said.

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The massive relocation plan is a unilateral move on Israel's part, intended to separate Israel from the Palestinians and thereby reduce contact and friction between the two sides, the government says. Most residents of the Gush Katif settlement bloc are still hoping that...
Disengagement,Proposal,Angers,Israeli,Environmentalists
721
2005-00-08
Friday, 08 April 2005 12:00 AM
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