JERUSALEM – After months of intense negotiations recently culminating in a deal allowing for the transfer of Gaza’s high-tech Jewish greenhouses to the Palestinians, several former Jewish residents who briefly returned to their farms told WND they were shocked to find most of their produce has died because Israel turned off the water in the area.
“I couldn’t believe it. Almost all of my crops are dead, and the rest is dying,” Anita Tucker, one of the pioneer farmers of Jewish Gaza told WND. “I hope the Palestinians aren’t expecting fresh produce. … A fortune in crops is now all gone.”
The greenhouse deal, reached just days before the Gaza evacuation, sold the area hot houses for about $14 million to the Economic Cooperation Foundation, an international fund which in turn will transfer the structures to the Palestinians.
The foundation consists mostly of private capital, including a personal $500,000 donation by James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president who is a special Middle East envoy for the “quartet” of the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
About one-quarter of Gaza’s Jewish greenhouses were previously dismantled and moved to new communities in Israel by their owners. The foundation deal reportedly covers the majority of the remaining hothouses.
The first payment to the former farmers of Jewish Gaza was transferred this weekend to a committee working on their behalf. A final payment will be made later this month, a member of the greenhouse negotiating team told WND.
PalTrade, a Palestinian company set up to export products from the greenhouses after they are transferred, has signed its first shipping contract for the produce slated to be grown there.
But several Jewish Gaza refugees who were allowed to briefly return to their hothouses said most of the produce currently inside is now dead.
Tucker, who owns large structures, said her hothouses were set to be watered by automatic irrigation systems.
“The sprinkler systems didn’t work because Israel stupidly turned off the water after the Gaza withdrawal,” said Tucker. “All my work, down the drain.”
A former resident of Jewish Gaza’s Ganei Tal farming community who asked his name be withheld said, “Most of the greenhouses in Ganei Tal are dried up. This better not effect our payment because it’s not our fault Israel turned off the water.”
Eitan Haderi, a former Ganei Tal resident who represented the Jewish farmers in the greenhouse negotiations, told WND the foundation deal meant to mostly cover the actual structures and farming equipment.
“We are very appreciative of all the hard work and efforts of Wolfenshon and others put in. Still they bought the structures and equipment at a good rate – not even a fourth of the actual value – so if the Palestinians don’t get fresh produce inside, it’s still a bargain.”
Gaza’s Jewish greenhouses feature some of the most advanced agricultural technology in the world, including insect-free produce, special planting and harvesting systems and advanced temperature regulation. Estimates put the remaining greenhouse structures at over $100 million.