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Gaza Arabs Get Second Chance on Greenhouses

US gives Gaza Arabs a second chance, providing them with new greenhouses after they demolished the Gush Katif originals.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/9/2010, 10:48 AM / Last Update: 8/9/2010, 1:15 PM

Israel news photo

The U.S. will be giving Gaza Arabs a second chance, providing them with new greenhouses to replace the Gush Katif originals they demolished.

In 2005, as Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza and forcibly removed the Jewish residents of the area, a group of Jewish American donors came together to ensure that the famed Israeli greenhouses that produced $200 million of produce per year would not go to waste. The greenhouses were purchased for $14 million – much of it provided by the Gates Foundation - and turned over to Gaza Arabs.

But within hours of the withdrawal, many of the buildings had been damaged beyond repair. Terrorists and looters stripped them of their piping and electronic equipment and tore down their walls. Some greenhouses remained, several of which were destroyed in a second round of looting in 2006.

Now Gaza Arabs are going to get a second chance to try to recreate the thriving greenhouses of Gush Katif. The United States Agency for International Development is to sponsor a project termed Family Agricultural Greenhouses, which will construct three new greenhouses.

USAID hopes the three greenhouses will support 900 families in the Hamas-run Gaza region.

The project has approval from both the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Defense Forces. Israel is working with USAID to coordinate the transfer of goods into Gaza to complete the project.

Anita Tucker, a former resident of Gush Katif, doubts that the new plan will be successful. Tucker explained that while Gaza Arabs were at one point beginning to succeed in agriculture with help from their Jewish neighbors, the rise of the PA and later of Hamas created a situation in which rival terrorist groups battle for control at the expense of civilians, and ultimately destroy efforts to build local industry.

If the US and Israel want Gaza to succeed, the solution is to allow Jews to return to the area, she told Israel National News. “People have to learn to live next door to each other. That's what peace is all about... That's part of the atmosphere you need for this to succeed,” she said, adding that Jewish farmers were "happy to teach their Arab neighbors advanced agricultural techniques", and would be willing to do so again.

As long as the atmosphere in Gaza is one of hostility, the rivalry between local Arab groups will make any attempts to build a better future fruitless, she predicted.