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Gaza Disengagement Plan: Israel Transfers Gush Katif Hothouses to Palestinians

(September 7, 2005)

Israel and the Palestinians reached an agreement that will allow Israel to transfer 3,500 dunams of Gush Katif hothouses to the Palestinians in Gaza. The issue of settler hothouses left in Gaza after Israel's implementation of the disengagment plan was one of the major economic issues facing the two sides in the post-withdrawal stage of plan. As of today, three of the six major economic issues on the disengagement agenda have either been solved or are close to final resolutions.

Over 200 Gush Katif farmers signed an agreement with the Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF), which will purchase the hothouses for $14 million and transfer them to the Palestinian Authority for distribution. The ECF, funded by the European Union and headed by Yossi Beilin, said that former World Bank head James Wolfensohn contributed $500,000 of his own money to ensure that the plan went through.

The greenhouses in Gush Katif belong to over 200 farmers who grow herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers. A representative of the Gush Katif farmers said that 90% of the hothouses were included in the deal, while the other 10% had already been dismantled by their owners. The farmers will receive $4,000 per greenhouse. Palestinian sources have said that the Palestinians originally did not want the greenhouses because they did not want any foreign aid to go to Jewish settlers simply for evacuating what they peceived as occupied land. However, the 4,000 or so Palestinians that are employed in the hothouses will now be able to hold onto their jobs because of the agreement. On September 13, as the last IDF soldiers left Gaza, thousands of Palestinians stormed the former settlements and looted dozens of the more than 4,000 hothouses during celebrations organized by the Palestinian Authority. In addition to the looting of the hothouses, Palestinians belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad burned down numerous synagogues that were left behind by Gaza's former Jewish residents.

The widespread looting and pillaging of the greenhouses by Gazan Palestinians has left over 800 of the 4,000 or so of them completely unusable. Repairs have been estimated to cost over $10,000 per greenhouse. Hundreds of these greenhouses, which averaged over $75 million in total crop output annually, have been reduced to bare glass houses with no hope of repair.

An agreement has also been reached regarding the demolition of settlers' homes, which states that most of the rubble will be recycled and reused by the Palestinians, while toxic rubble will be buried in Israel and the Sinai. Negotiations are also in progress concerning a new border control system that will provide Israel will necessary security safeguards, while allowing for more freedom of movement for Palestinians inside Gaza. However, Israel has stated that the Palestinians must be more vigilant in monitoring the people and goods that flow from Gaza into Israel, or it would make it impossible for Israel to ever fully withdraw from the border crossings.

Sources: Jerusalem Post, Yahoo News