(July 16, 2019 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed reservations about a $5 billion proposal for a highway and railway between the West Bank and Gaza as part of the Trump administration’s Mideast peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians, reported Axios and Israel’s Channel 13 on Tuesday, citing “sources briefed on the matter.”
The idea was proposed as part of the deal’s economic component, which was released last month during the economic summit in Bahrain.
Netanyahu and his aides were briefed about it two weeks before it was publicized, according to the Axios report.
The prime minister’s wariness about the passage is related to security matters, the sources told the outlet.
The report stated, according to the sources, “Israel gave U.S. officials examples of how even today—with no transportation corridor and Israel in full control of Gaza’s borders—Hamas attempts to transfer operatives, messages and know-how from Gaza to the West Bank by exploiting entry permits granted for humanitarian reasons.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt told Axios that the hesitation from the Israeli side “surprised me” because the administration repeatedly assured that “Israel’s security is first and foremost” in the proposal.
Greenblatt added, “I am not aware of any official pushback from the Israeli government on this point for now,” in that such feedback came from Israeli private citizens, and that the West Bank-Gaza passage “can only be a part of a comprehensive deal if it is acceptable to Israel and all security issues can be thoroughly addressed.”