(June 28, 2018 / JNS)
Albert Einstein once said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
One cannot help but recall this given the attempts to resume the debate about the construction of a port for the Gaza Strip. What makes these initiatives worrying is the identity of their advocates: past and present Israel Defense Forces officers and even cabinet ministers.
In the past, this foolish idea focused on the construction of an artificial island about 1.5 miles from off the coast of Gaza, designed so it could be cut off from the mainland if necessary. This would cost billions of dollars and take years to build. This vision included setting up water desalination plants, power stations and even an airport, as if such projects had not been built already solely because of the absence of an artificial island, and as if their chances of success would be greater if they were built offshore rather than on Gaza’s coast.
Recently, a more delusional vision has surfaced, apparently promoted by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to build a Gaza port on a different island: Cyprus. According to this idea, Israel would build a dock in Cyprus for its longtime enemy, which would include “an Israeli monitoring mechanism” geared to prevent Hamas from exploiting the dock to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
But how would Israel monitor the use of dual-purpose materials, such as fertilizer (also used to make explosives), metals (used in rockets) and cement? Even today, under strict supervision, about 90 percent of the cement delivered into Gaza is appropriated by Hamas for non-civilian purposes, such as the construction of terror tunnels.
The Palestinians have also greatly expanded the concept of “dual-purpose” to include kites, balloons, nails, fuel, kitchen knives and cars—all of which have been converted into means of destruction used against both property and humans.
Wouldn’t the problem worsen if they had a port of their own?
With respect to the previous plan for an island, what fate would befall Israeli (or international) inspectors stationed on an isolated, artificial landmass if they were attacked by a Gazan mob?
Also, what would be considered sufficient cause to detach the artificial island from the mainland? Would that decision be left exclusively to Israel’s discretion? If so, how would that diminish Israel’s control over the Palestinians in Gaza?
And in the Cyprus version, how would we be able to prevent military equipment from being smuggled onto a vessel left unsupervised after it departs Cyprus and begins traveling to Gaza? If we continue to oversee the voyage, would that not be considered the “continuation of the occupation”?
What is truly troubling is that one reason offered in support of the idea is that the proposed Cyprus port would ease the economic hardship in Gaza and therefore diminish the violence against Israel, and also that it would be contingent on the return of two Israelis and the remains of two IDF soldiers held by Hamas.
The first argument essentially validates the false Palestinian narrative that terrorism is the result of the “occupation,” and therefore, Israel is responsible for it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Arab hostility towards Israel is the cause of the Palestinians’ distress, not its outcome. If they want to improve their situation in Gaza, all they have to do is to stop trying to murder Jews, and allow Israeli entrepreneurship and creativity to help Gaza prosper.
The second argument essentially fuels Palestinian extortion. If holding bodies and live captives gets the Palestinian a port, why wouldn’t they see it as a clear invitation to continue with this policy?
What is really absurd is that Gaza already has a port: Ashdod, which is closer to it than to most other Israeli cities. The Ashdod port can easily meet all of Gaza’s needs. Besides, in the event of war, does anyone really want the Palestinians to have access to a port?
Martin Sherman is the founder and CEO of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.