Katz: Gaza port would release us from Gaza

Transport and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz describes the benefit of building a port near Gaza.

Shimon Cohen ,

Yisrael Katz
Yisrael Katz
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Arutz Sheva spoke with Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) about the plans to create an artificial island across from Gaza. Katz has been pushing for the project for several years, and has recently found both domestic and international support.

"More and more officials are coming to understand the advantages and to support this. The entire political Right is behind it."

He added that: "In public interviews Shaked and Bennett (Jewish Home) have given it unequivocal support, as have other officials like Yoav Galant (Kulanu), the former head of the IDF Southern Command, as well as numerous people in the opposition because there is no ideological issue here.

"You need to understand the situation we're in: I was one of the strongest opponents of the disengagement, I initiated the Likud referendum and I thought it wasn't right. But once it happened and Jews were expelled and the IDF was removed, the Arabs were left in charge of Gaza. It's absurd. Now, after Operation Protective Edge, every day about a thousand trucks with materials used for creating tunnels and rockets go in.

"We are responsible for our most bitter enemy. If there is a humanitarian crisis we're responsible and now we are going to expand the water, gas and power provisions. More food and more cement, while there's still the security challenge of tunnels and rockets.

"We have no interest in the civilian side of this yet we must maintain our security. Allowing the creation of a port or airport in Gaza would be a tragedy, because legally we could not control it and Iranian ships would come to deliver sophisticated weapons. I have searched for an idea on how to maintain our security and release ourselves from this responsibility. The advantage of an island is that it would be placed three miles outside of the territorial waters."

He added that Israel will continue monitoring the the sea and security checks. "International forces will oversee the island, but we won't rely on them because it's clear that they would flee from any conflict. We are responsible for what interests us in terms of security and the Palestinians would get an exit to the sea.

"We've reached the stage prior to a Cabinet decision with very broad support from ministers. Those who have looked into the idea view it positively. The world is discovering that Israel has no interest in imprisoning Gazans, but only wants to maintain its security."

As for the complex task of creating the port, Katz said that, as an expert in constructing ports, it is the easiest part of the process, as long as all the other parameters are approved. "The models were built according to transportation and economic considerations. It's a synch. The central issue is with the security and legal situation alongside the possibility of separating, and so I call this the 'Separation Island' plan. It has support from the right, the left and the middle."

Many are concerned that the plan would pose a significant expense for Israel. "Definitely not," he insisted, adding: "Not even a single shekel. We made the decision. We will create a team that I hope to lead, and this team will begin negotiations with other countries, the US, European countries and Arab countries with which we have contact and joint security interests. Once the issues that are important to us are settled it will be easy to put into effect.

"We have no desire to do the physical building, but rather to create a system of international countries that will make the port as a business as a private port that provides desalinated water, power and, in the distant future, maybe even a private airport. It won't be under Palestinian sovereignty and rule. They won't be 'imprisoned' and this claim will disappear and the responsibility will be lifted from us."