Palestinians stand atop a boat at Gaza's seaport in Gaza City October 16.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An ambitious plan to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip by building an artificial island off its coast that would contain major infrastructure projects will not be raised at the security cabinet Sunday afternoon because of long-standing disagreement about the project between its initiator, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Katz – a member of the security cabinet – said Sunday he was removing the issue from discussions because of “substantive differences on the matter” with Liberman.
“The State of Israel has run into an unreasonable situation in Gaza,” said Katz. “On the one hand, we are dealing with short-term proposals for civilian assistance because of the humanitarian crisis, instead of exerting significant practical pressure to restore the bodies of the captured IDF soldiers. And on the other hand, we refrain from making decisions on correct strategic solutions for the long term.”
Katz’s artificial-island plan, which he has been pushing for more than a year, would have a 2 km. by 4 km. artificial island built 4.5 km. off the Gaza coast that would be linked by a bridge to Gaza. It would include a port and desalination and power plants that would serve the coastal strip. It would also give the Palestinians an outlet to the world.
According to Katz’s plan, Gaza’s exports and imports would be processed via the island, which would be under the security control of NATO or another international body that would search the cargo going in and out of the Strip. Israel has adamantly opposed opening a harbor or airport in Gaza because of security concerns.
The island, according to estimates, would cost between $5 billion and $10 billion, and take some six years to construct.
Liberman, however, has consistently fought the plan, saying it would not be possible to ensure that goods going to and from the island did not include smuggled weapons. He also said that these types of plans should be contingent on the demilitarization of Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not placed his support behind the plan, and no decision on it was reached last June, when the idea was broached in the security cabinet.
The security cabinet discussed steps to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza at a meeting Sunday afternoon.