Wolfensohn Deal

In August 2005, James Wolfensohn, UN special envoy to oversee Israel’s Gaza Disengagement, arranged for the purchase and transfer of about 1,000 greenhouses from Jewish Israeli settler ownership to the Palestinian Authority. Wolfensohn, a former World Bank president, offered $500,000 of his own money for the deal, while a consortium of wealthy Americans covered the remaining $13.5 million. Though the greenhouses were expected to be a key factor in the Gaza Strip’s recovery after Israel’s disengagement in August 2005, up to 50% of them had been at least partly dismantled by the settlers themselves before the disengagement. Many of the remaining greenhouses were looted by Gazans immediately after the Israeli army left, leaving a number of them unusable or in need of expensive repairs. The hi-tech greenhouses, which grew spices, flowers and vegetables primarily for export, had employed approximately 3,500 Gazans during the Israeli occupation. However, border closures impacting export of produce and the lack of financial subsidies that the Israeli settlers had received from the Israeli government make it questionable whether or not the greenhouses could have been profitable for Palestinians, even had the looting not occurred. See "US Donors to Pay Departing Jews for Gaza Greenhouses," Greg Myre, The New York Times, August 13, 2005; and "Troubled Season for Gaza’s Greenhouses," Joshua Mitnick, The Christian Science Monitor, October 25, 2005.

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