Arab Knesset member tells Emaar group Palestine is no real estate project

ABU DHABI — Palestinians do not welcome the controversial offer of a Dubai-based property magnate to buy up all the properties that Israeli settlers vacate in Gaza later this year as it would amount to recognising Israel.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Fri 25 Feb 2005, 11:07 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:36 PM

Asked about the proposal of Mohammad Ali Al Abbar, the Director-General of the Dubai Department of Economic Development and Chairman of Emaar Properties, an Israeli Arab lawmaker dubbed it as an attempt to transform Palestine into a huge real estate project.

“Palestine is not a real estate project,” Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh said in here Tuesday.

Barakeh was replying to questions after a lecture on the ‘Palestinian issue and Gaza’s separation plan’ he delivered along with another Arab Knesset Member Dr Ahmed Tibi.

However, Barakeh declined to elaborate, saying: “That is all I can say. This is my answer,” and repeated: “Palestine is not a real estate project.”

According to reports, Abbar has offered around $56 million to buy the houses and agricultural plots as well as 12 factories that will be left empty when Israel uproots 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip later this year.

Israel’s second television channel reported that Abbar had offered $56 million for homes at the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the southern Gaza Strip.

Abbar’s secret visit to the Occupied Territories last week and his alleged meetings with senior Israeli leaders also angered many in the Arab region.

Activists in Abu Dhabi criticised the meetings saying that there was no justification for that initiative.

“This totally unjustified initiative is contrary to international law and UAE federal law,” said the Emirates National Committee Against Normalisation with the Israeli Enemy.

“The purchase (of the colonies) rewards the Israeli occupation and makes it legitimate... It risks engaging the Emirates in a misunderstanding with our Palestinian brothers and damaging the excellent reputation built by the Emirates over the years with Palestinian people and officials,” it said.

The London-based Elaph web site quoted Israeli sources as saying that Abbar had met secretly with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He is also believed to have had talks with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres after briefly meeting Sharon in the first publicly reported meeting between officials from the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations.

Peres has lent his backing to Abbar's offer.

“Israel wants to preserve in their entirety the (settlement) infrastructure and is looking for a solution for (individual) houses,” Peres said after meeting Abbar.

Abbar also briefly met with Ilan Cohen, the director-general of Sharon’s office, a spokesman for the premier said.

“We wish to help Palestinians from the Gaza Strip as soon as possible and in the most efficient way,” he said, according to a statement from his office.

The two agreed to form a joint working group of their staffers.

To oversee the planned Gaza project, Emaar Properties said it had decided to form a new company — Emaar Palestine — in the Palestinian Authority.

That followed talks in the West Bank town of Ramallah Thursday night between Abbar and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Ahmed Qorei, the statement said.

The meeting was attended by a range of businessmen and officials invited by the Authority to discuss plans to build infrastructure as well as mixed use residential and commercial developments in Palestine.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Abbas had discussed with Abbar his “participation in investment and reconstruction projects in the Palestinian territories”.

Commenting, Abbar said it was vital to set up development projects to improve the infrastructure for Palestinians.

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