Gaza offshore island project gaining steam, says intelligence minister

In exclusive meeting on Monday, Israel Katz discusses the details of the project that his ministry estimates will cost $5 billion.

Gaza island model as presented on June 20, 2016 (photo credit: COURTESY/THE ISRAEL PROJECT)
Gaza island model as presented on June 20, 2016
A proposal to provide the Gaza Strip with an outlet to the rest of the world through a man-made island could soon become a reality, Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz said Monday.
Although the idea of building this artificial island has been floating around for years, real headway has only been made in the recent months, according to Katz, who estimates the project will cost some $5 billion.
The project would include a 5 km. bridge from the Gaza Strip through Israeli waters and into the planned 8 sq. km. chunk of land, which likely would have a marine port and, eventually, an airport, in addition to a hotel and small port for yachts.
Hamas has said that among its conditions for a long-term truce with Israel are the reopening of the Strip’s Yasser Arafat Airport and construction of a new seaport. Such an option on existing Gaza land, Katz said, would put Israel’s security at risk and allow Hamas to misuse funds allocated for its construction.
The alternative, if the island is not built, Katz said, is for Israel to keep increasing – and paying for – the amount of water, electricity, food and other goods supplied to Gaza.
According to Katz, the process is still being deliberated by officials who are mainly trying to decide how exactly Israel would be involved in maintaining security at a port that would be internationally funded and secured.
The minister said the project would not be built or funded by Israel in any way. Rather, he said, the initiative is more of a statement of support were this plan come to fruition and Israel would allow international entities to enter Israeli waters in order to carry out construction.
Katz acknowledged that the island would not necessarily put an end to weapon smuggling and rocket firings at Israel, but would help the populace to become less radical as it receives a better standard of living and the possibility of traveling and commerce with the rest of the world without Israeli involvement.
The project, which Katz said has the support of a number of high-profile global figures including Tony Blair, is one of a number of regional-cooperation projects, using the oft-stated slogan of “doing what we can wherever it’s possible” and finding areas in which regional “frenemies” can find issues on which to cooperate.
In May, Katz announced an initiative that would transfer Turkish goods to Jordan and onward to the rest of the region through Israel via a train route from the Port of Haifa to Beit She’an, which is a 15-minute drive from the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing into Jordan.