Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) released a video on Wednesday promoting his vision for building an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip to provide for the Palestinian enclave’s economic needs while maintaining Israel’s security.
The island, proposed at some 534 hectares (1,320 acres) and at a cost of approximately $5 billion over several years, would include infrastructure to provide Gaza with essential services it currently lacks, including desalination facilities for clean water and an electricity plant, a freight harbor and an area for container storage, which Katz says will help open the Gazan economy to the outside world and a bridge would connect it to Gaza, with one portion acting as a drawbridge. An airport could be considered at a later stage.
Katz has been floating this idea for some years but it recently gained traction after reportedly getting a nod from members of US President Donald Trump’s administration back in April.
On Wednesday, a new video, complete with animation, graphics, English narration and dramatic music, showed in more detail what Katz has been proposing.
“The artificial island initiative is aimed at providing an answer to a reality that is bad for the Palestinians and not good for Israel,” the narrator begins seemingly acknowledging the humanitarian and economic conditions in Gaza after a decade of rule by Palestinian terror group Hamas, which overthrew rival Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007.
Gaza has been under blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt ever since. UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, but Israel says it is necessary to keep Hamas, which avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction, from obtaining weapons or materials to make them. Gaza-based terror groups led by Hamas have fought three wars against Israel since 2008.
“Today, Israel continues to be perceived as being responsible for the Gaza Strip and is to a large extent the only lifeline to it, even though it withdrew from the strip over a decade ago,” says the narrator in reference to the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.
The planned island “which will be internationally financed, built and owned, will be constructed about three miles off the coast of Gaza” and will provide Palestinians with a “humanitarian, economic and transportation gateway to the world without endangering Israel’s security,” says the narrator.
With the proposed island, a key point for Katz would be for Israel to control security around it and in the port, in order to ensure Israeli security by preventing the entry of materiels that could be used for attacks against Israeli civilians, with threats such as rockets and tunnels a major concern.
“In order to ensure that security threats are addressed, Israel will remain in control of security in the sea around the island and of security inspection in the port,” according to the proposal.
On the island itself, Katz envisions an international police force “which will be responsible for security and public order on the island and for a checkpoint on the bridge which will connect the island to the coast.”
“Should the need arise, the island could be disconnected from the Strip,” the narrator says.
“In addition to its humanitarian and economic importance, and distinct security advantages, the artificial island initiative will strengthen the cooperation and relations between Israel and the countries in the region and in the international arena,” says the video adding that in time, the initiative could promote “deep positive changes in the Gaza Strip and a better future in the Middle East.”