Photo Credit: Minister Israel Katz Facebook page
Artist's rendering of an offshore harbor and airport for Gaza, under Israeli control

Israeli negotiations with Turkey on renewal of full economic and diplomatic relations hinge, not surprisingly, on an area that isn’t part of Israel or Turkey, namely the Gaza Strip. Or, more to the point, the Turks insist that Israel must allow the Gazans to build a new port, having lived since 2007 under a tight Israeli blockade. With the Hamas’ track record on abusing whatever shipments Israel does allow through the border crossings, using cement to build terror tunnels instead of rehabilitating residential buildings that collapsed during the 2014 war, it’s obvious why Israel would resist such a demand. However, it appears that at least some in the IDF echo the Turkish sentiment, arguing that something must be done to alleviate the suffering of Gaza’s civilian population, and soon.

Military Intelligence chief Major General Hertzi Halevy on Tuesday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the deteriorating economy in Gaza is liable to cause an explosion which would be turned against Israel. MKs who participated in the closed-door meeting told Ha’aretz that Halevy believes the rehabilitation of Gaza is going too slowly, and stresses that an economic improvement would be the best restraining measure against a new war.

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But others in Israel’s security apparatus insist that “Whatever enters the Gaza Strip must undergo an Israeli check. If someone is eager to transport goods by sea, they are invited to bring them through the Ashdod harbor.” Responding to news earlier this week that Israel and Turkey are on the way to some agreement on a Gaza harbor, a source in the defense ministry told Walla that “we have no intention to turn a blind eye on anything that’s going into Gaza.”

Only a month ago Israel’s media reported that Hamas has rebuilt its attack tunnels that had been destroyed by the IDF in the summer of 2014, and that, according to IDF intelligence, some of those tunnels reach well into Israeli territory. Meanwhile, reports on the deterioration of the quality of life inside the Strip suggest most Gazans receive only 3 hours of electricity a day, and the Egyptian flooding of the smuggling tunnels reaching into the northern Sinai have eroded the quality of drinking water, especially in the southern Strip. How long, ask those who support the harbor plan, before the suffering population that has nothing to lose throws itself on the border fences, provoking a ghoulish clash with the Israeli military?

There are five alternatives being discussed by the Israeli leadership, to appease to Turks while helping the Gazans without harming Israeli security. One calls for the harbor to be built in El Arish, a sleepy Egyptian town in the north-western Sinai, which is under Egyptian rule. Another is the exotic idea of building an artificial island that would face the Gaza shore, where ships would unload their goods under strict Israeli control. There’s also an idea to build a Gaza harbor in Cyprus; and, of course, there’s the more intuitive idea of building the harbor in Gaza, but wrapping its operation tightly in long-term ceasefire deals. Naturally, as soon as Hamas starts shooting rockets at Israel, Israel could wipe out their nice harbor.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and most of the military brass are not impressed by any of the above, and continue to insist on delivering the shipments to Gaza the way God intended it to be done — through Ashdod. They boost their position by regularly releasing stories about the frightening things the customs officials are discovering in those shipments — and they’re not making anything up, there’s a hangar down in Ashdod, packed with an arsenal of cleverly concealed weapons and explosives, chemicals and poisons, and, most recently, toy drones.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. "Relieve the suffering of the Gaza people"? It's not Israel that causes any suffering, it's the regime that controls Gaza, steals the aid money and diverts it to building missiles and tunnels, kills or tortures political opponents, continually threatens Israel with attack, etc. Why on earth would Israel wish to appease Turkey and Gaza, two places that are extremely hostile and would destroy Israel if they could?

  2. Turkey is an ally of Hamas, and will no doubt station troops and ships there. So what will Israel do when Hamas starts firing rockets from Gaza when there is a Turkish presence ? Since the 1993 there is over 32 billion dollars of Arab Palestinian aid missing. According to the Foreign Ministry, over the past year and a half Israel has permitted 3.4 million tons of building materials to be imported into Gaza. And yet, according to a recent report by the UN, 74% of the civilian buildings that were destroyed in Protective Edge have yet to be rebuilt. The fact is as long as Hamas controls Gaza the Arab Palestinians will suffer economic chaos. Only fool believes Hamas will not use Turkish presence in Gaza as a new shield to hide behind to fire rockets into Israel.

  3. Historically, the Ottoman Turks lost WWI, including their Middle East colonies. After 1967, Egypt lost Gaza, and never wanted it back. Currently, the Sinai has been infiltrated by ISIS. Iran eagerly supports Hamas in Gaza.

    As we have learned, particularly from the 1973 war, Israel cannot afford to make even one mistake, without threatening itself and being thrown into the sea. Given the current misguided pro Islamic leadership of Turkey, why would Israel negotiate with Erdogan who already betrayed his relationship once before? Israel does not need to buckle under any of Turkey's pluffs or manuvers to reinsert itself as the "Greater Ottoman Empire." That would be as if England attempted to control the Suez again.

    Instead, let Turkey 'twist in the wind' while Israel builds better relations with Greece and Cyprus; continue to embargo Gaza until the Hamas/Iranian axis is eliminated.

  4. The proposal to build a port in Gaza is not military intelligence but abject supidity. If tensions build up then it would be easier for the IDF to retake a splintered Gaza. Israel should not assist Hamas supporting Islamist Turkey's bid for a neo-Ottoman caliphate.

  5. The Gazans don't want a harbour or airport off shore under Israeli control because that means they won't be able to smuggle in their arms and weapons that they use against Israel.Their behaviour toward Israel should illiminate them from getting more freedom because all they want to do is cause terror and death to the Jewish people.

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