Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has unveiled a proposal that he believes could allow Israel to fully disengage from Gaza, without compromising its security.
“For years, I have been calling for a ‘civilian disengagement’ plan. Stop providing electricity, water, gas, food, and all kinds of other things, demilitarize Gaza – no missiles and tunnels – and create a border between Israel and Gaza,” he explained.
Instead, he said, Gaza should have its own airport and port – but with special arrangements.
“We should open the Rafiah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for an intermediate period, for goods and people to pass through, with supervision,” he said.
“At the same time, we should initiate the creation of an artificial island at sea, under international supervision and with international funding, roughly 4.5 kilometers off the Gaza coast,” he continued. A model for the project has already been created, he noted.
“On the island there will be a port, a power plant and water treatment plant, and eventually an airport. There could be hotels there, too. The island would be connected to Gaza by a bridge, which would have a security checkpoint in the center.
“[The checkpoint] would be under full international control for 100 years, and under Israeli control at sea,” he suggested. “The Palestinians would be part of operating the port and airport, and staffing the hotels.”
“There would be no homes on the island,” he added.
If the condition of Gaza’s demilitarization were violated, he said, the crossing and the security checkpoint could be shut down. Israel would retain the option of responding to any cross-border fire.
“In order to allow this to be implemented, Israel must set the demilitarization of Gaza as a clear objective for Operation Protective Edge,” he warned.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in the 2005 Disengagement, but continues to supply the region with water, electricity, and other supplies, and retains control of the sea some distance off the coast of Gaza. Under agreements reached during the Disengagement, international observers were to man the Egypt-Gaza crossing and ensure that weapons did not enter Gaza; however, the observers fled following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2006, and the agreements were later ignored.