'Gulf tycoons bought agricultural land in Galilee'

Israel Radio reports local farmers failed to thwart sale of hundreds of dunams of agricultural lands.

Galilee view 88 248 (photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
Galilee view 88 248
(photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
Wealthy individuals from Arab states that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel have recently purchased hundreds of dunams of agricultural land in the Galilee, Israel Radio reported on Saturday. Farmers in the Galilee tried to unite in an effort to thwart the sale, which was reportedly funded by tycoons from the Gulf, but failed to raise enough money to buy the land from its owners, who were forced to sell after suffering from financial problems. The Israel Lands Administration told the radio station that it could not interfere with the transaction since the lands are privately-owned. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) said the issue was not his responsibility. Meretz party head and former agriculture minister Haim Oron said that the sales prove that the supporters of the ILA reform plan, recently approved by the Knesset, were misguided. Kadima MK Nachman Shai issued a press release saying that what everyone feared had finally happened, and "Israeli lands are being sold to the highest bidder." "The Israel Lands Administration reform is a loophole calling out to the robber, and it will attract, as expected, Arab investors from abroad, who will eventually gain control over significant pieces of land in Israel," Shai wrote. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has argued that the fact that 93 percent of land in Israel is publicly-owned creates obstructionist bureaucracy, and that unsnarling red-tape is in everyone's interest.