Gush Katif farmers sign $14m. deal on hothouses

Representatives of farmers from the Gaza Strip settlement bloc of Gush Katif signed a $14 million deal Friday morning to sell 90 percent of hothouses in the bloc to a private international fund that will transfer the structures to the Palestinians. The fund, ECF (Economic Cooperation Foundation), coordinated private donations to fund the hothouse transfer. The Quartet envoy to the Mideast, James Wolfensohn, played a major role in raising the funds – most of which come from American donors – and personally donated $500,000. ECF, which was founded in part by Oslo architect Yossi Beilin, will transfer the hothouses to a Palestinian Authority company. USAID, an independent U.S. federal government agency, had originally planned to supply the funding, but backed down after Palestinians objected to having U.S. government money go to settlers. Some 230 Gush Katif farmers will receive $3,500 per dunam (1,000 square meters) for an empty hothouse and $4,000 per dunam for hothouses ready for planting. Approximately 3,500 dunams of hothouses in Gush Katif are covered by the deal. The rest of the hothouses were dismantled before the agreement was signed and were moved to territory within the Green Line. Half the money will go to the farmers after the settlements are evacuated. The farmers will get the other half after the Israel Defense Forces evacuates the Strip, at which point the hothouses will be transferred to the Palestinians. BPI-info