Israel’s defence minister yesterday offered to turn Gaza into a prosperous territory by creating jobs and building infrastructure.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s offer was posted in Arabic on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the body responsible for coordinating Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories, as part of an effort to create pressure on Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas.
Lieberman proposed turning Gaza “into the Singapore of the Middle East” by building a seaport and an airport and by creating an industrial zones that would help create 40,000 jobs in the strip, if Hamas agreed to demilitarisation and to dismantling the tunnel and rocket systems it has built up.
Lieberman said: “There is no reason for the residents of Gaza to live in the 21st century under lesser conditions than in Judea and Samaria or in the Arab world. The Gazans must understand that Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last millimeter, is not the source of their suffering — it is the Hamas leadership, which doesn’t take their needs into consideration. The moment Hamas gives up its tunnels and rockets, we’ll be the first to invest.”
He also demanded that Hamas return the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and release the three Israeli civilians who entered Gaza on their own accord but are thought to suffer from mental health issues — Abera Mengistu, Hishan al-Sayed and Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima.
Lieberman added in the online statement: “We’re open people. We must find the right formula that would allow the two peoples not only to exist but also prosper. When you reach an agreement with someone, it’s not going to work if only one side is benefitting. The two sides need to benefit and feel like they’ve gotten a good deal.”
Lieberman’s offer came ten days after a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel, which led to retaliatory tank fire and air strikes. While Israel is not seeking a new war, Lieberman warned “any provocation will be met with a powerful response”.