State Control Committee Tours Gaza Border Region; Holds Meeting In Kibbutz Be’eri

MK Shelly Yachimovich

MK Shelly Yachimovich

The State Control Committee toured the Gaza border region on Thursday accompanied by Gaza Division Commander Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs. Following the tour, the committee held a special meeting in Kibbutz Be’eri, during which Committee Chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) said, “I myself and those who share my worldview are usually critical of the lack of a diplomatic vision regarding the Gaza issue, but from [the issues raised] during this meeting we can see [very clearly] a lack of planning and vision also with regards to civilian matters.”

“Round after round – the same problems, the same foot-dragging, the same complaints by the farmers – for 17 years already. The property tax is usually commended, but isn’t it time to think of a smart, permanent compensation model that will also be friendlier to the residents of the ‘Gaza envelope’ region? I ask that the State Comptroller’s Office publish an interim report on the deficiencies we have heard about today.”

Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni said, “Apparently, as citizens, we are too good.” He complained that the ministers of finance, economy and tourism, “and also the prime minister,” have been ignoring the residents of the area for the past 140 days. “Apart from empathy, we haven’t received anything lately. This is why the government does not have a plan for the ‘Gaza envelope’ area; this is why they came in the beginning to be photographed here and haven’t come since. This is what’s most frustrating; not the fact that they are not able to compensate us.”

Chief Superintendent Tomer Brenner, Commander of the Police`s Aerial Firefighting Unit, told the committee that the unit has carried out 250 sorties in 150 flight hours, and has used 100 cubic meters of fire retardant substances and more than 700,000 liters of fire-extinguishing materials. He said 25,000 dunams have been burned over the past three months, adding that “the cooperation between all the operational bodies, as well as the new capabilities we have developed, have contributed greatly to the significant decrease in the amount of incendiary kites and fires in the past few weeks.”

Kibbutz Be’eri secretary Yaniv Hegyi said, “We are not helpless; we are strong, but we have only one request: don’t forget about us in between rounds. We have a shortage of water to grow the fields; a million cubic meters of water were deducted from our [water ration]; we are lacking public transportation – there are only six buses to Netivot a day; we are lacking financial support and basic development; we are also lacking fire-extinguishing equipment. We don’t get it from the government, we purchase it ourselves.”

Edi Polonsky, a dairy farmer from Kibbutz Or HaNer remarked, “I submitted the application weeks ago, and still haven’t received a shekel from Property Tax. We simply do not receive answers. I come to them with accurate Excel [spreadsheets] estimating the losses – and they ask for a general value estimate. We do not need handouts or a hug; we need the state to allow us to earn a living with dignity. It is unacceptable that while we’re putting out fires, vegetables from Turkey and Gaza, which are irrigated with sewage water, arrive here.”

Ze’ev Midan, chief executive of the Israeli Honey Board said, “Any compensation sum that we need is the equivalent of about a quarter of a missile! What are we talking about here? The hives produce a set amount according to the license they are given. Why doesn’t Property Tax simply compensate according to the amount [that appears] in the license and that’s it?

Yoav Morag, a Ministry of Agriculture official commented, “We’ve decided not to exclude the Gaza border towns from the cuts in the water quotas on a national scale, as there are places where the water shortage is worse. What we’ve decided to do in the meantime is to slightly increase the water quotas from the Dan Region Wastewater Treatment Plant (SHAFDAN); a large portion of the towns that benefit from [these quotas] are located near Israel’s border with Gaza.”

Amir Dahan, Director of the Compensation Department at the Ministry of Finance noted, “Up until now, an estimated 180 claims have been submitted to us, and we are estimating the overall damage at 10-12 million shekels. It is true that there are significant moral damages, but at the end of the day, they are not complicated damages.”