Israel minister swims against tide with Gaza island plan

A computer-generated image of what an island would look like off Gaza.
Updated 31 March 2017
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Israel minister swims against tide with Gaza island plan

TEL AVIV: An Israeli minister has gone against the tide in proposing a way he says would alleviate conditions in the Gaza Strip while maintaining his country’s security control — build an island nearby.
The unusual proposal has gained backing among some in the Israeli security establishment, but he is a long way from convincing everyone.
Those concerned with Palestinian rights say it would do little to address the root of the problem and question whether it would further separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank — making a future contiguous Palestinian state even more difficult to achieve.
Israeli Intelligence and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz argues that it is feasible and the best option for now, with the island’s long-term status to be negotiated.
Katz has pushed the idea for several years, but has recently redoubled efforts to spread the word.
It would see an artificial island built in the Mediterranean Sea some 5 km off the coast of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave under a decade-long Israeli blockade.
The island would be tiny at some 534 hectares, only a fraction of the size of Malta, for example.
It would include infrastructure to provide the Gaza Strip with essential services it currently lacks, including desalination facilities for clean water and an electricity plant.
There would also be a freight harbor and an area for container storage, which Katz says will help open the Gazan economy to the outside world.
A bridge would connect it to Gaza, with one portion acting as a drawbridge. An airport could be considered at a later stage.
The cost would be some $5 billion — but Katz argues it could be covered by private companies locating there.
Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an NGO monitoring Israel’s Gaza blockade, said steps like removing restrictions on the types of goods Gazans can market to Israel and the West Bank could lead to immediate improvements.
“I think Katz’s proposal raises questions about what the real goal is,” she said, asking whether part of it involves continuing “the isolation of Gaza.”
Raji Sourani of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights was more blunt, saying of Israel that “we don’t want anything from them.”
Referring to the blockade and the 50-year occupation of the West Bank, he said: “All that we want is for them to get off our shoulders. We want to be normal human beings.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Thursday to move ahead on a plan to create Israel’s first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in more than 20 years despite international concern over the issue.


Israel says 12 Palestinian buildings destroyed in controversial demolition

Updated 5 min 46 sec ago
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Israel says 12 Palestinian buildings destroyed in controversial demolition

  • EU and UN officials disapproved of Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes
  • Palestinian Authority said the buildings are located under their control according to 1990s Oslo accords
JERUSALEM: Israel said Tuesday a total of 12 Palestinian buildings it considered illegally constructed were demolished in a controversial operation the previous day, while a UN preliminary assessment showed 24 people displaced.
The demolitions of Palestinian homes, most of which were still under construction, drew condemnation from the European Union and UN officials.
Israel says the homes south of Jerusalem were built too close to its separation barrier cutting off the occupied West Bank, posing a security risk, and the demolitions were approved by its supreme court following a lengthy process.
Palestinian leaders expressed outrage at the demolitions in the Sur Baher area, which straddles the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
They note that most of the buildings were located in areas meant to be under Palestinian Authority civilian control under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Before dawn Monday, hundreds of Israeli police and soldiers sealed off buildings in the area while residents and activists were dragged out.
A statement from Israeli defense ministry unit COGAT said “12 buildings and two building foundations were demolished,” adding that they were “built illegally.”
Israel’s supreme court “ruled that the buildings may be demolished as they constitute a security danger to the area of the security fence,” the statement said.
UN humanitarian agency OCHA said a preliminary assessment showed 24 people, including 14 children, were displaced.
More than 300 people were affected by the demolitions, it said.
Prior to the demolitions, OCHA said the buildings were to include some 70 apartments. It said those being displaced were from three households.
On June 18, a 30-day notice was given by Israeli authorities informing of their intent to demolish the buildings.
Residents fear another 100 buildings in the area in a similar situation could be at risk in the near future.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.
It began construction of the separation barrier during the bloody second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s and says it is necessary to protect against attacks.
Palestinians see it as an “apartheid wall” and a potent symbol of the Israeli occupation.