Haaretz Peace Conference

Israel Has No Policy on Gaza, Minister Admits After Decision to Curb Strip's Power Supply

Yisrael Katz slams the government's inability to decide on the construction of an artificial island off Gaza's shore

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz at Haaretz's Israel Conference for Peace, June 12, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

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Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz said Monday that "Israel has no policy for Gaza, only decisions." 

The minister made the comment at Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace after being asked about reducing the electricity supply to Gaza. "Israel constantly faces dilemmas, between what Doctors without Borders and Abu Mazen [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas] want on a given day," Katz added. 

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On Sunday, the security cabinet decided to accept the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip. That complies with the Israeli army's recommendation against leniency toward Hamas, which controls Gaza, according to an Israeli official. 

"First and foremost the Israeli interest should be protected," Katz said.

He added that he had opposed Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005. But since it is a fait accompli, two million people, the population of Gaza, can't be left "trapped without a port," said the minister, who holds the transportation portfolio. 

Katz also revisited the idea of building an airport on an artificial island off Gaza. The entire military establishment supports the idea, he said. Meanwhile, Katz said, the Israeli "stupidity" and inability to make decisions has been going on for years, he said. "A decision has to be made." 

He declined to answer a question about whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the Gaza airport idea, but said, "Give us the permission and I'll handle it. I'll take the right people from the Transport Ministry and Shin Bet. Finally we can go around the world showing a positive initiative from the region."

Changing subject to the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, Katz said he suggested giving the Arab neighborhoods beyond the fence "their own municipal rights There is a profound argument over Jerusalem, which is not being resolved for the time being." He would approve municipal rights without changing the boundaries of Jerusalem, Katz said.