A new island in the Mediterranean…just off Gaza

At first glance the video looks like a promotion for a luxury offshore development, a Dubai Palm-style project on the Mediterranean. Then it becomes clear it’s about Gaza and the future of the impoverished and fenced-in Palestinian enclave.

Israel’s intelligence and transport minister has long pushed the idea of an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip, with plans for a port, cargo terminal and even an airport to boost the territory’s economy and connect it to the world.

But now the minister, Israel Katz, has released a slick, high-production video setting out his proposal in more detail, complete with a dramatic, English-speaking narration, colourful graphics and stirring music.

The artificial island initiative is aimed at providing an answer to a reality that is bad for the Palestinians and not good for Israel,” says the narrator, acknowledging that the aim is in part to change the view that Israel is to blame for the deteriorating circumstances of Gaza‘s two million people.

The Islamist militant group Hamas has controlled Gaza for the past decade, during which time Israel and neighbouring Egypt have maintained a tight blockade, restricting the flow of goods and people in and out, in part to pressure Hamas.

While Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers in 2005, it still limits Gaza‘s access to the sea and controls its airspace.

“Today, Israel continues to be perceived as being responsible for the Gaza Strip and is to a large extent the only lifeline to it, even though it withdrew from the strip over a decade ago,” says the narrator.

To challenge that perception, and tackle the broader humanitarian and economic problems that beset Gaza – it is currently receiving less than three hours of electricity a day and has unemployment exceeding 40 percent – Katz’s plan calls for a $5 billion investment over five years.

It envisages an international consortium building the 1,300-acre island (525 hectares) some three miles offshore, connecting it to the mainland via a causeway, which would have a bridge in the middle that could be raised, cutting off access.

Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since it seized control of Gaza from the rival Palestinian movement Fatah, has long called for a sea port and wants the airport in Gaza, destroyed by Israel in 2001, rebuilt.

(Reuters)