With Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip scheduled to begin next week, Palestinian infighting threatens to destroy one of the main benefits of the territorial acquisition. In a deal brokered by the U.S. two months ago, Israel agreed to hand over to the Palestinians hundreds of greenhouses and hothouses in Gaza, where settlers grow everything from celery to exotic flowers. The U.S., in turn, would compensate Israel for the agricultural facilities, which bring in $150 million in earnings and employ some 4,000 people.
But the plan is unraveling, thanks to infighting among Palestinian bigwigs. As they delay final approval of the deal, and with it Israeli compensation from the U.S., settlers have begun dismantling greenhouses rather than leaving freebies for the Palestinians.
According to international agencies and top Palestinian officials, a range of Palestinian ministers, security chiefs and businessmen are vying for sole control over the greenhouses.
And this isn't the only example of intra-Palestinian tensions. Top Palestinian security officials say there is a dispute between different branches of the military over who will guard the empty settlements. In the end, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will probably have to pay off all the feuding parties. But by then, the greenhouses and a chance to grow the Palestinian economy may have withered on the vine.