Israel reportedly agreed to give Egypt millions of dollars from a joint industrial zone as part of the deal for the release of an Israeli man from Egyptian prison last week.
Jerusalem gave Cairo 2 percentage points of Israel’s 10.5% share in earnings from an Qualifying Industrial Zone with Egypt, worth an estimated millions of dollars annually.
Ouda Tarabin, who was convicted of spying and who has denied all the allegations against him, was released by Egypt on December 10 and returned to Israel after serving his sentence, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
In exchange, Israel released six Egyptians being held in Israeli prisons, three of whom finished their sentences, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning. The other three were arrested on non-security-related charges.
Netanyahu touted his efforts to secure Tarabin’s release at the weekly cabinet meeting, telling ministers that he negotiated with three Egyptian presidents — Hosni Mubarak, Mohammad Morsi, and Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — to get the man freed.
“I sent my representative Yitzhak Molcho to Egypt a year and a half ago to ensure that [Tarabin] would indeed be freed on this shortened date,” Netanyahu said. His prison term ended on December 3, however, and he was believed to have been held by Egyptian intelligence until he was handed over to Israel.
It wasn’t clear why Israel would agree to give up earnings from the QIZ with Egypt as part of the deal, or what, if anything, Israel would be getting from Egypt in return besides Tarabin’s release.
The QIZ was formed in 2004 and allows Egypt to export products duty free to the US if they contain inputs from Israel, according to the Economy Ministry’s Foreign Trade Administration.
FTA chief Ohad Cohen said earlier this year that Israel makes approximately $100 million annually in exports to Egypt.
In recent years there had been talk of a prisoner exchange of dozens of Egyptians held in Israel in return for Tarabin.
Tarabin’s family in July accused Netanyahu of ignoring their son’s plight because he is not Jewish. They said that no Israeli official had contacted them since their son’s arrest.