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
0

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.


Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

Updated 23 April 2019
0

Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

  • President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist group
  • Tehran reacted to the designation by naming the US Central Command a terrorist organization

DUBAI: Iran’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday requiring the government take firm steps to respond to “terrorist actions” by US forces, state TV reported, retaliating against Washington’s blacklisting of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist group, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on US forces.
Tehran reacted to the designation, which took effect on April 15, by naming the US Central Command (CENTCOM) a terrorist organization and the US government a sponsor of terrorism.
“The bill authorizes the government to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests,” TV reported.
“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions.”
Highly loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the IRGC is a powerful force which controls much of the Iranian economy and wields political influence in the country’s faction-ridden clerical establishment.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said some 168 lawmakers out of 210 present at the parliament voted for the bill.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since last year, when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between the IRGC and US military in the Gulf.
The new chief commander of the IRGC Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned in the past that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the United States.
The Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, said in a statement on Monday that the president has decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the heightening economic pressure on Iran showed that Washington was in panic.
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime — and chronic failures of its client co-conspirators,” Zarif Tweeted on Tuesday.
A commander of Iran’s IRGC said on Monday that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Tehran is barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes on its way from Middle East producers to major markets.