27: Develop Air and Sea Transit Infrastructure for Gaza
Why is it important?
Despite withdrawing soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel still restricts the enclave’s airspace and sea access. Engaging in basic foreign commerce and overseas travel are particularly onerous tasks for Gaza Palestinians. The Gaza Strip’s Yasser Arafat International Airport, the only international airport established in the Palestinian Territories, was destroyed during the Second Intifada and remains derelict. All of these conditions amplify the already dire humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza.
Some Israeli leaders have advanced a proposal to build an artificial island off of the Gaza Strip that would host an airport and marine terminals. The facility would operate under Israeli supervision but be connected to the Strip by a causeway. Others have suggested the use of a port in Cyprus in cooperation with Israel. All of these would allow the Israelis to continue to conduct security screening while providing Gazan Palestinians with more immediate access to the outside world. However, plans for Gaza air and seaport infrastructure remain unrealized, and the crisis in the Strip continues to deteriorate.
A few years back, Likud Minister Israel Katz initiated an ambitious idea of building an artificial island along the coast of Gaza. According to Katz’s outline, the island would include a port, an airport, and infrastructure facilities for energy and water desalination. The island would be connected to the Gaza beaches by a five kilometer bridge from which Israeli security checkpoints will operate. The Idea came up as a solution for the siege on Gaza and as a final step to complete the disengagement. Katz claims that “The disengagement did not really happen” and argues that “we can tell ourselves that we are not legally responsible for what is happening in Gaza, but that is not true. The responsibility for a humanitarian crisis of two million people living there will be imposed on us.”
The island is supposed to help remove the suffocating siege on Gaza and lead the Palestinian enclave towards economic development while also allowing Israel to continue monitoring what comes in and out of the Strip. The continuation of Israeli supervision along with huge investments will give employment to tens of thousands of people and thus help Gaza flourish in a way that will make terrorism seem less attractive. This is a way to lift the blockade in a controlled and supervised manner that has the potential to create growth and a sense of progress that the residents of Gaza and the Hamas regime will not be quick to endanger.
Cyprus Mulling Israeli Request for Port to Send Goods to Gaza
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the proposal for the Palestinian territory during a visit last week to the eastern Mediterranean island.
Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Cyprus.
Cargo ships would deliver goods to the dock, which would include an Israeli monitoring system to prevent the smuggling of weapons and materials for terror attacks into Gaza, according to a report from the Hadashot TV news. Goods would then be shipped to Gaza on smaller vessels.