Like many of the 8,000 Israelis who were evacuated by the Israeli Army from Gaza in August, 2005, Dror Vanunu who lived in Gush Katif and served as a spokesman for the evacuees, is now based in temporary quarters, a pre-fabricated home in Nitzan, near the Mediterranean coast between Ashdod and Ashkelon. He was in New York recently as part of a lobbying and public relations mission.
Q:It’s been almost four years since Israel evacuated the Jews from Gaza. A lot of history has transpired — elections, fighting, terrorism. Has Israel forgotten Gaza and the refugees?
A: No. Tzipi Livni, the head of Kadima, in one of her last interviews before the election, was asked if she regrets something. She said
the fact that the government failed to provide appropriate solutions for the people of Gush Katif “is really bothering me.” The fact that things are not moving ahead is bothering Israeli society.
We’re concerned that more than 1,600 families are still in temporary homes.
There’s progress, but not enough. We need more help, we need more support.
After Sinai was evacuated, most of the Jews went to live in Israel proper. Some say the people from Gaza have not “moved on” with their lives. Why are so many still in temporary quarters?
Israel signed the agreement with Egypt in 1978. Israel withdrew from the 15 communities in Sinai in 1982. There were four years of massive preparation to help the people resettle and build their lives again.
With Gush Katif, there was no time. The government made a decision, and several months afterward it was implemented.
Many of the people of Sinai moved to Gush Katif. You can’t compare people who lived in Yamit for four, five, six years — they were still young — to people from Gush Katif whose entire life … almost 35 years … was dedicated to Gush Katif.
When you had to leave Gaza, people predicted that there would be violence, that Hamas would take over. When you see what has happened now, do you feel vindicated?
We were warning that the disengagement would blow up in the face of Israeli society.
A lot of people were laughing at us. People thought we are not realistic. People thought that by giving Gush Katif, it would bring peace to the entire region.
A Hamas state was built on the ruins of our homes.
Has Israel learned a lesson?
I hope, I hope.
What is the mood of the settlers? Bitter, optimistic?
On one hand we are bitter, because people dedicated their entire lives to building Gush Katif.
On the other hand people realize we need to go forward. Every place the government has given us the ability, you see people starting their lives again, building their homes. So far more than 140 families have started to build their homes.
The people of Gush Katif are still committed to the country, are still staying in Israel.
Do you miss Gaza?
I miss Gush Katif. We miss the fact that we lived in an important place. We were the security belt of Israel.