Israel’s Minister of Transportation has announced the “unthinkable.” He proposes to create an artificial island off the Gaza coast which would contain a seaport, an airport, and perhaps a hotel at an estimated cost of 5 billion dollars.
The island would be connected to the rest of the world by a bridge, presently referred to as the Separation Bridge. It would allow Gazans access to the rest of the world without entering Israeli territory.
Such a plan would succeed in opening the enclosed Gaza Strip for the first time in decades and Gazans could travel abroad, make commercial arrangements and enjoy a life which has been denied them for decades due to Hamas’ control of all of Gaza.
The proposed island and connecting bridge would not be a security threat to Israel and would enhance the life of the two million inhabitants in Gaza.
The seaport and the airport would not be built in Gaza proper but rather in the proposed new off-shore island.
This is a remarkable idea which Yisrael Katz, the Minister of Transportation, has proposed. It would cost Israel nothing to build it. Funds would be contributed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and international donors and construction would be done mainly by Chinese and Saudi construction companies. The bridge would be five kilometers long and would pass over Israeli territory and water.
Such a project would take several years to complete but by opening up Gaza to the rest of the world it may greatly reduce the Hamas influence and at the same time separating Gaza from Israel and providing Israel with the needed security.
Much also depends upon the current peace negotiations between Israel and Turkey. One of the Israeli demands is for Turkey to evict Hamas operatives from the country, something that Turkey is reluctant to do. And Turkey’s demand is for Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, something which Israel cannot agree to do. Turkey would be permitted to ship all commercial goods to Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashdod. These two issues are still the stumbling block to a signed deal between the two countries.
If Katz’s plan is successful, perhaps he could construct a bridge over Judea-Samaria (West Bank) territory so that it would be possible for Palestinians to cross without having access to enter Israeli territory.
Building bridges is reminiscent of Robert Frost’s poem about building fences which makes for good neighbors.
On the question of security for the Separation Island, Katz has in mind supervision by NATO forces.
The European Union, mainly pro-Palestinian, has yet to weigh in on this unusual proposal. But with Israeli ingenuity it could work successfully. The Gazans could have a world of their own to delight them and we could enjoy the pleasures of security and tranquility.
A dream….maybe. A practical idea… halevai !!!