The plan envisions the port complex to be constructed atop a man-made island – dredged with sand from the sea bottom, measuring four square miles – that would be located three miles offshore and connected to the mainland by a two-lane bridge.
The Gaza Strip is currently controlled by Hamas – an internationally designated terrorist organisation.
The idea has received support from Israel’s transportation minister Israel Katz as a way to both guarantee Israel’s security and allow Gaza a portal to the world.
Support has also been echoed from Yoav Galant, Israel’s head of southern command, who stated: “If Gaza had the ability to bring ships, and goods, without posing a security problem that is in everybody’s interest”.
The Israeli government’s security cabinet is currently debating the $5 billion proposal which is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Under the proposal, Israel would supervise security checks through a checkpoint in the middle of the bridge, but the island would otherwise be run by Palestinians and the international community. The bridge could easily be closed during any potential hostilities, preventing unnecessary loss of life.
Galant, who also previously commanded the Israeli Navy Special Forces unit known as Shayetet 13, underlined the Israeli conundrum of trying to help Gazans without aid falling into the hands of Hamas: “While a port built onshore would be impossible to supervise and could jeopardise Israel’s security, an artificial island would ensure Israel has full control over goods coming through”.
Advocates of the plan state that the island would provide a way to allow resources to reach the inhabitants while removing the security threat of weapon and rocket smuggling.
Today, Israel is working to support reconstruction efforts in Gaza. Israel has facilitated the passage of over 4.6 million tonnes of construction materials into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge (as of April 2016). This has been in part due to Israel’s expansion of its border crossings with Gaza to handle over 800 truckloads of goods a day. Of the more than 130,000 households that were damaged in the conflict, 80,632 have completed renovation, and the repair of 20,342 is currently underway.
Since the Operation Protective Edge conflict in 2014, Hamas has continued to rearm and rebuild its cross-border terror tunnels. Official reports from Israel in May stated that 95% of cement that was destined for civilian projects was diverted by Hamas for military purposes.