Necessity is the mother of invention, as Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has recently demonstrated, pushing forward with his idea for a detachable offshore port to be built in Gaza.
Katz first put forward his idea in 2011, when he estimated that the project would cost $10 billion. It was perhaps because of the price tag that the idea didn’t progress any further at that time.
Now Katz is saying a detachable seaport, later to possibly include an airport as well, will cost $5 billion. He has backing from Israeli Defense Force officials and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, a former IDF senior officer. The idea is being discussed by the security cabinet, and Katz told media that he hoped it will soon be voted on by the Knesset.
Katz’s proposal envisages the construction of a seaport in the international waters near the Gaza Strip, to be located on a 5-km-long artificial island. The port will be connected to the land by a detachable bridge, which will be under Israeli supervision. Should Hamas or anyone else give cause for concern to the supervisors, the bridge will be detached from the land. According to Katz, the major concern is arms smuggling for Hamas.
The Transportation Minister believes this will be a mutually beneficial solution to at least some of the problems that Israelis and Palestinians have with each other. On the one hand, he says, Gazans will gain some economic independence despite the blockade installed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took power in 2007. On the other, Israel will supervise security, making sure this independence doesn’t backfire. Related: OPEC May Be Forcing Venezuela Into Regime Change
As an idea, this may sound good, but it has had its critics. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmud Abbas, for one, does not seem too happy with the port. One aide to President Abbas said such a project will cut the final strings connecting Gaza to the rest of the Palestinian territories, adding that the motivation behind it was political.
Israeli commentator Martin Sherman slammed the idea as “harebrained” and “absurd”, arguing at length that its supporters are mistaking causes for effects and basing their plans on this wrong notion.
Katz’s stated aim is to improve the wellbeing of Gazans. Sherman refers to senior IDF officials backing the project as explaining that the better life Gazans have, the less they would be willing to support Hamas and its terrorist activities. He calls the idea preposterous, saying this reasoning is just as far-fetched as the idea that plunging Gazans into deeper poverty will prompt them to rise and remove Hamas from power. Related: $1 Trillion In Spending Cuts Could Lead To An Oil Price Spike
Whatever the doubts regarding the motivation behind the idea of a detachable port, there are purely practical concerns that need to be addressed should the project be approved by Israel’s legislators. The state is unwilling to foot the bill, so it will be looking for international investors to fund the construction. The Financial Post quotes Katz as suggesting the money could come from Saudi Arabia or China, but no further details are given.
In any case, the project is at a very early stage with no blueprints or timeframes for its possible completion, so chances are, what is happening right now is that this 2011 idea is getting an airing to see if it will get more support than it garnered last time.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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