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China’s role in Israel’s artificial Gaza island project

in Middle East/World by

Yisrael Katz, Israeli Minister of Transport, has long had proposed his brainchild project to create an artificial island off the coast of Gaza Strip. But in recent years, his idea has become highlighted as almost all the Israeli officials are rooting for the project, except Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Katz believes this project could be a platform for international cooperation. He sees China and Russia as potential investors that could help create the island.

The plan is to create an artificial island about three miles off the coast of Gaza. It will have a seaport, sea water desalination plant, hotel, power station and possibly an airport in the future.

A bridge will connect the island to the Gaza Strip, but it will have Israeli checkpoints. Also, as Israel wishes to tightly control the trafficking, a section of the bridge could be lifted to disconnect the island from Gaza, further enabling the Israeli government in controlling the island. Now the Israeli does not mention this but a section of the bridge was designed in a way to enable Israel to blow it up by airstrikes in time of hostility or war to completely isolate the harbor.

Drawbridge to isolate the Mainland of the artificial island off the coast of Gaza

Katz says the island will tremendously help the economy of the Gaza Strip and improve the humanitarian condition of the land. He believes the island will connect Gaza to the rest of the world and help them improve their state. On the other hand, he hopes it will avert the skeptical eyes who regard Israel responsible for the desperate state of Gaza Strip.

However, skeptics believe the Gaza island proposal to be another political attempt by Israel to gain favors against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza Strip since 2007, over the dying peace talks with the Palestinians and the long-held trade and travel restrictions that it has imposed on the isolated land.

Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and U.S., has fought Israel three times in the last seven years. People of Gaza consider their land an open-air prison.

Although Israel has not yet put the proposal to vote and the PM Netanyahu has not announced his stance on the matter, Katz talks in grand terms about the island.

Even if the proposal wins the votes in Israel, there is the matter of convincing Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Professor of the Center for the Study of International Relations at China’s University, Yan Mian, said of the proposal in an interview with Sputnik, “If this project will help improve the situation around Gaza Strip, or help Gaza, for example, in terms of fresh water, or construction of the port that will somehow able to eradicate civilian life problems in Gaza, then China will consider taking part in such a project.”

Ren Yuanzhe, a China expert from the Diplomatic Academy, also shared his idea with Sputnik:

“First of all, China attaches great importance to peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Secondly, the construction of the islands can also help pacify the situation in the region.”

He then emphasized that China initiated the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to offer to build interconnection of transport and communication on an international scale. The establishment has already started its preliminary projects of the AIIB in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

“Therefore, the future of construction in the Middle East could become a platform for a joint international effort,” Yuanzhe said.

The Jewish state is currently looking for financial partners to help with the 5-billion-dollar project. Chinese participation could help the country in its geopolitical ambitions.

Rabbi Abraham Shmulevich, Israeli political scientist and president of the Institute of Eastern Partnership, argued China’s potential involvement in the project.

“The idea from the technological point of view is doable. In terms of political and economic perspective it is also clear enough. Why was China invited to participate? There is absolutely no surprise there because China is very careful, smartly and consistently increasing its presence in the region around Israel,” Smulevich said.

Smulevich noted that China has long-term investment projects across Africa and the Middle East.

“The strategic and economic objectives are clear: to become a real world power, to control the flow of goods and to stop being a country that is completely dependent on Western technology and investment,” he said.

He then mentioned that China has already begun its transportation projects in Israel.

“The Chinese always offer very good investment conditions, since the aim is not only to obtain economic benefits, but also geopolitical goals — strengthening the country’s influence. China has consistently taken control of the world’s transport infrastructure. China’s participation in the Israeli project would be one such example.”

Leonid Belotserkovski, the chief editor of the Tel Aviv publishing house News Week, also gave his opinion on the Chinese involvement.

“What pushes them mainly is the fact that the Chinese construct quite fast and deliver a high quality product,” he said. “I can say that these guys construct marvelously.”

Belotserkovski further added that the two country have been working together in other fields. China is helping the Israeli government build the port of Ashdod which is believed to be a new Israeli modern port.

“The Chinese are generally active in the Israeli economy, especially in the sphere of high technology, where Israel is a world leader. That is a bit dangerous but what can you do,” said the expert.

On Israel’s contribution to China, he said the country’s high-tech development in China is pretty large. China’s agriculture industry is very much dependent on Israeli experts and their high-tech machines. Hence, Belotserkovski suggests the cooperation is “mutually beneficial.”

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