Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Monday presented his idea for the creation of an internationally financed and owned artificial island three miles off the coast of Gaza that in his view would “promote deep positive changes in the Gaza Strip and a better future in the Middle East” during a meeting in Brussels.
The video, titled The Gaza Artificial Island Initiative, which was presented to the European Union’s first Foreign Affairs Council meeting of the year, says that the current state of affairs isn’t satisfactory to either Israel or the Palestinians.
The Irish Times explains Katz floated the artificial island idea again back in 2017, with an unnamed official present in Monday’s meeting telling the news outlet they found his presentation “very bizarre.”
“Construction of an artificial island with a port and civilian infrastructure installations off the coast of Gaza will provide the Palestinians a humanitarian, economic and transportation gateway to the world, without endangering Israel’s security,” the narrator of the video states.
According to Katz’s vision, Israel would control security around the island and will inspect the port, while an international policing force would maintain public order on the island itself. But it was unclear if the proposal involved the relocation of Palestinians to the new island.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told reporters Katz showed two videos during their meeting, both of which “had little or nothing to do with the issue we were discussing,” according to translation of his remarks. The second video involved the creation of a railway line linking the Middle East to India.
While Borrell said he found both videos “very interesting,” he added: “I believe that the minister could have made better use of his time to worry about the security of his country and the high number of deaths in Gaza,” according to translation of his remarks.
There appears to be growing concern internationally about the dire conditions in Gaza as the civilian death toll nears 25,500, according to local officials, and how Israel envisions the future for Gaza and Palestinians once the fighting ends.
Israel’s Intelligence Ministry last year drafted a “concept paper” that would involve the transfer of all Palestinians in Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, according to The Associated Press.
The Palestinian Authority denounced the Israeli proposal.
“We are against transfer to any place, in any form, and we consider it a red line that we will not allow to be crossed,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in late October.
“My insistence is what has prevented — over the years — the establishment of a Palestinian state that would have constituted an existential danger to Israel,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. “As long as I am prime minister, I will continue to strongly insist on this.”
Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister who held separate talks with the EU Foreign Affairs Council, said he expected the EU to condemn Netanyahu’s words.
“I expect from you to start contemplating sanctions against Netanyahu and others who are really destroying the chances for a two-state solution and for peace in the Middle East,” al-Maliki said.
Borrell noted the Israeli government’s position to the issue, but said he was unsure about what other options they were considering, while he said it was the bloc’s “moral obligation” to try to advance the two-state solution.
“Which are the other solution they have in mind?” he asked. “To make all the Palestinians leave? To kill [all] of them?”