Photo: Gadi Kavlo
A port in Gaza may help Israel's economy. Ashdod port
Photo: Gadi Kavlo

Dangers and opportunities

Gaza ports may facilitate weapons-smuggling, but may also reward Israel financially

The Palestinians are scheduled to construct sea and air ports in Gaza. As Israel has agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, we must permit this state independent contact with the outside world.


The dangers entailed in this contact and past experiences with the Palestinians do not bode well for us.


The building of these ports may facilitate the mass transfer of deadly weapons into Gaza, including long-range and anti-aircraft missiles.


It is clear that Israel cannot allow the construction of the ports without an agreement that includes a Palestinian commitment to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the area.


However, past experience has taught us that such an agreement may be violated.


On the other hand, we must also consider the fact that weapons-smuggling on a significant level took place when we were in control of Gaza, and Hamas is already in possession of an array of missiles.


Moreover, despite the dangers stemming from the existence of a Palestinian sea and air port in Gaza, it would also offer Israel major financial advantages and increase the chances of peace.


Just as the Israeli settlements were within range of weapons that are already in Gaza, the Palestinian sea and air ports will be within Israel’s range, so we will be able to make it clear to the Palestinians that any attack on Israeli towns would result in the closing of the ports.


The Palestinians have learned the lessons of the intifada, when the fighting resulted in the shutting down of the Gaza airport.


Flying from Gaza


Yet another factor should be added to this equation.


For many years Israel has suffered for a land blockade, and even today, despite the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, our connection to the outside world is lacking. The financial implications of this are drastic, as this is the main reason for the sea and air ports monopoly in Israel.


The local market is paying a heavy price due to this monopoly.


Sea and air ports in Gaza, located just a few dozen kilometers from central Israel, may change the situation entirely: If the Israelis and Palestinians will take advantage of the opportunity, goods may be brought in through the Gaza port, thus ending the monopoly and offering a real opportunity at significantly lowering import and export costs.


Tourists would be able to arrive in Israel via the Gaza airport, and perhaps one day we will be able to fly abroad from the same airport.


Such a development would also create more jobs for Palestinians and, in turn, decrease the need for their employment in Israel. 


Daniel Friedman is a columnist for Yedioth Ahronot newspaper


פרסום ראשון: 09.06.05, 09:46
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