Israeli Minister to Demand Cabinet Discuss His Plan to Build Gaza Island Port

The request comes against the backdrop of concern over a humanitarian crisis in the coastal strip that could spark a renewed violence conflagration.

Gaza City, December 2016.
Adel Hana/AP

Days after the publication of the state comptroller report on the 2014 Gaza war, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz is expected to ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sunday’s meeting of the security cabinet to hold a substantial discussion regarding Israel’s policies toward Gaza.

The request comes against the backdrop of concern over a humanitarian crisis in the coastal strip that could spark a renewed violence conflagration.

Katz said he would ask the prime minister to hold a discussion regarding a plan that he had put forward to create an island off the Gaza coast where a port and other facilities would be built under Israeli and international supervision. The plan is designed to make it possible for Israel to totally disengage from Gaza and lift its siege of the territory.

“Israel doesn’t have the privilege of waiting. The situation in Gaza demands decisions,” Katz said. “We are proceeding toward a humanitarian crisis or a new round of war or both.”

Over the past year-and-a-half, on several occasions Katz has attempted to have the security cabinet consider his plan for the off-shore island. At the core of the proposal is the 8-square kilometer island itself, which would be connected to the Gaza mainland with a bridge that would be subject to security inspection. In addition to a port, the island would feature energy and water desalination facilities that would address the two main problems facing Gaza’s population. The proposal was discussed briefly at several previous security cabinet meetings but the issue was not considered at length.

Senior Israel Defense Force officers have expressed support for Katz’s idea and are of the view that it should be seriously considered. Up to now, Netanyahu has not expressed enthusiasm on the subject and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has expressed opposition to it. But for his part, Katz said: “The island will make it possible to free ourselves of responsibility for Gaza from a position of strength and allow Gaza an economic outlet to the world while protecting the security interests of the State of Israel.”

Last week, IDF Intelligence Corps chief Herzl Halevi warned of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that could cause an escalation in the security situation. The state comptroller’s report on Gaza that was issued last week noted the humanitarian distress in Gaza as one of the factors that led to the war there during the summer of 2014. The report also noted that a year and three months before the war, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories had warned the security cabinet that the humanitarian situation in Gaza could explode.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira stated in this report that the security cabinet didn’t conduct a single substantial discussion of the issue.