Netanyahu ally rejects US-proposed West Bank-Gaza travel corridor

Netanyahu ally rejects US-proposed West Bank-Gaza travel corridor

Tzachi Hanegbi says such a plan remains ‘irrelevant’ as long as the Hamas terrorist group controls the coastal Strip

Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

A cabinet minister and ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday questioned a key component of the Trump administration’s new Mideast peace plan.

Tzachi Hanegbi, minister for regional cooperation, said Sunday that the US proposal for a land link between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is “irrelevant” as long as the Hamas terror group controls Gaza.

The $50 billion economic plan, unveiled Saturday, calls for a travel corridor between the two Palestinian areas through Israel. It envisions the construction of a modern road and potentially a rail line to link the West Bank and Gaza Strip — touching on longstanding Palestinian concerns that the two territories, currently ruled by different factions, are not connected.

Israel, however, fears such infrastructure would be used by the Hamas terror group to funnel military materials into the territory to use against the Jewish state.

“It will be relevant when Gaza will stop being a pro-Iranian terror kingdom, meaning it’s irrelevant today and in the foreseeable future,” Hanegbi told Israel Radio.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with Tzachi Hanegbi during a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset on February 8, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The US is holding a two-day conference in Bahrain this week to debate the economic side of the plan with Arab states. The Palestinians have rejected the plan, while no official representative from Israel was invited.

The Trump administration sees the Palestinian investment and infrastructure proposal as the economic engine powering its much-anticipated but still unreleased Middle East peace plan.

The scheme, which calls for a mix of public and private financing and intends to create at least a million new jobs for Palestinians, was posted to the White House website ahead of the Bahrain workshop.

The plan calls for projects worth $27.5 billion in the West Bank and Gaza, and $9.1 billion, $7.4 billion and $6.3 billion for Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, respectively. The projects envisioned are in the health care, education, power, water, high-tech, tourism and agriculture sectors.

Jared Kushner (R) joins US President Donald Trump as he holds a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 1, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

Up to $900 million, all in grants, will go to upgrade cargo terminals and build special access roads to reduce the time and costs of cross-border trade and travel.

Palestinians sort tomatoes on a conveyor belt at a tomato paste plant in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on June 17, 2019. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The plan puts a major emphasis on tourism, calling for $1.5 billion in low-interest financing and another $500 million in grants to develop attractions and promote the Palestinian territories.

Seeing education as key to the Palestinian future, the plan calls for $500 million in grants to create a new university in either the West Bank or Gaza Strip that will aim for top global standards.

The plan deliberately does not address a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, an outcome that has eluded diplomats for decades.

The Trump administration says the political component will be unveiled later this year, potentially in November after Israel holds elections and forms a government.

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