Hard-right Minister Uri Ariel Backs Israeli Army's Gaza Port Plans

The Habayit Hayehudi minister was responding to a Haaretz report about renewed consideration by Israeli military officers of the idea, which Netanyahu and Ya'alon oppose.

Itamar Saida

Agriculture Minster Uri Ariel posted a comment on Twitter on Wednesday in support of building a seaport in Gaza.

"In the event that security measures are approved by the Israel Defense Forces, I would support establishing a port in the strip," the tweet reads. Ariel, a member of the hard-right Tekuma faction of Habayit Hayehudi, added: "Zionism and settling the land go hand-in-hand with economic and regional development."

Ariel was reacting to a report by Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel, who wrote that Israeli political and military officials were weighing the possibility of a seaport for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip due to "the deteriorating economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, to the desire to seek long-term solutions that would help improve the situation and reduce the danger of a new outbreak of conflict with Hamas." In his Tweet, he included a screenshot featuring the article.

"Senior Israel Defense Forces officers are in favor in principle of a port for the Gaza Strip, especially if it comes with a Hamas pledge for a long-term cease-fire. Some ministers also support the idea. However, chances do not seem especially strong, mainly because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are against it," Harel added.

At least five proposals are on the table, including building a port in Egyptian territory in Sinai in the Al Arish area, construction of an artificial port opposite the Gaza shoreline, building it on the Gaza coast itself, and earmarking docks in Cyprus or Ashdod for Gaza-bound shipments. Israeli opponents of a port for Gaza express particular concern over its security implications for Israel.

The Hamas Islamic movement took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a bloody battle in which it ousted the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip has periodically been a base for launching attacks into Israel, most notably including rocket and mortar attacks.

The IDF has maintained a naval blockade of the strip, but has allowed limited transit of people and goods over the Israeli border. Egypt has also limited movement over its border with the Gaza Strip and has worked to destroy smuggling tunnels built from the strip under the border into Egypt.