The World Bank in Gaza and vacated Gush Katif Globes journalist Gadi Golan reported that the World Bank will grant a series of financial incentives to entrepreneurs and investors who set up enterprises, businesses, and civilian infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. This was reportedly agreed to by World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and Vice Premier Shimon Peres in New York this week, when they were guests of former President Bill Clinton at the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global l Initiative.
In what may be a related development, the Jerusalem Post reported on Friday that the prosecutor of the Austrian government says he suspects Ariel Sharon was bribed by Cyril Kern, who may have been a front man for Martin Schlaff – a major shareholder in the Jericho casino. The Post reported that the police suspect that Kern gave a ‘loan’ hoping the prime minister would reopen the casino, which was a big money maker for the Palestinians and for the businessmen associated with it. Israel Radio reported on Monday that there are legal experts who say that now that Israeli primaries are drawing near, it would be appropriate if the Israeli police authorities would make public the report they sent to the Austrian authorities a year ago [regarding Sharon]. Note: Dov Weisglass, the architect of the Disengagement Plan and advisor to Sharon for the last several years, is a partner in the law firm that continues to represent the Austrian firm that has a shareholding in the casino. The same Austrian firm also has the exclusive right to build casinos elsewhere in the Palestinian Authority, for example, in the areas that used to be Gush Katif.
Moshav Katif Update According to Ezra Heidu, spokesperson for Moshav Katif, the decision regarding the possibility of moving the Moshav Katif community to Eivin for three months, while a more permanent solution is found, is not expected to come through.
There are no other options at this time, he said. The community, currently using the dorm rooms of the Ulpana of Kfar Pines, very much wants to remain together, but it is getting more and more difficult for them, now that the students of the Ulpana have returned. Some Katif families have already left.
Another Katif “temporary resident” at the Ulpana said that, while they are grateful to the community that has taken them in, they have no kitchen facilities in their small rooms, and the food that they eat is the student dorm food, and since some of them prefer to eat quietly, as families, after the girls are finished, they are sometimes faced only with leftovers. He also said that it is very difficult, that he has to drive long distances to work in the south, and when he comes home late at night, he sees that someone in his family has to do dish-washing duty in the girls’ dining hall, and that aside from the exhaustion, he feels uncomfortable washing dishes with teenage girls. He also noted that, even though the people of the village are very willing to help, the laundry gets mixed up, lost, or ruined when the lights and darks are mixed. When asked why they don’t speak up about the food, dish-washing and laundry issues, he said, “People are embarrassed. We’re not used to living like this. Our hosts are doing their best; we don’t want to complain.” His family spent thousands of shekels this month on new clothes and food. [Minhelet Sela spokesperson Chaim Altman, when speaking about this arrangement, called the dorm a “guest house”.]
Heidu said that the operating of Minhelet Sela is “between Sdom and Chelm. Their behavior is between irresponsibility and criminal. There is a joke we tell – that Yonatan Basi [head of Minhelet Sela] was the only person who really believed that the expulsion would not take place. From the beginning they related to us like refugees, which is also why their ads said, ‘There is a solution for every resident’, not ‘There is a solution for every community’.”
Netzer Hazani Update Anita Tucker of Netzer Hazani, when asked what has happened since we spoke almost two weeks ago, says, “Absolutely zero”. Half of the families are in tiny rooms in Kibbut Ein Zurim, waiting for their caravans to be ready. The other half are in Hispin, in the Golan Heights. In her case, her husband works in Dimona, so they all get together in Hispin for Shabbat, where her son’s family is. Their final dwelling place is still unknown. The problem, she says, is that every time the community finds a good location to build together as a community, the government will not give them land there. They still can’t get to their containers, as there is nowhere to put them, to remove necessary objects and clothing. People are forthcoming in setting up interest-free loan arrangements, she says, but “It’s hard to take loans when you’re used to being productive.”
Reaction of Minhelet Sela: Chaim Altman, spokesperson for Minhele Sela, said that the issue of Moshav Katif in Eivin is still “under negotiation”. He also said that after three months in Eivin, there is a possibility that the people of Moshav Katif, along with those of Gdid, will settle in Masuot Yitzhak, though this was not an option mentioned by the Katif people. Altman claimed that it isn’t clear to them who is a “group” that wants to settle together and who isn’t; that they don’t always speak in one voice and that the responsibility for what went wrong is shared. He said, “We’re doing our best. Your questions should be asked of the Prime Minister. I can’t figure out [a solution for] each and every one.” He said that there are plenty of apartments near each other in Lod and Beer Sheva. When asked how someone who works down south can be expected to travel from Lod, he said, “It’s closer than Hispin [in the Golan].”
Regarding Netzer Hazani moving to Ein Zurim, he said, “It’s still under negotiation.”
Regarding media reports that there were 100 “kavavilot” standing empty in Nitzan, Altman said the real number is 65, and that those are either 60 square meters or 90 square meters, that there are none left that are 130 square meters. (Most of the families have at least five children.)
He said that more than 200 families from Neve Dekalim currently want to join Nitzan, the regular – not caravan – community, and that there will eventually be 442 homes ready there. (There are 600 families from Neve Dekalim.)
Regarding the future of the religious families left from Homesh, who have not settled in the secular, communist Moshav Yad Hanna, Altman confirmed that “I don’t know anything about them.”