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FM Lapid presents policy plan for Gaza

What happened: Yesterday Foreign Minister Yair Lapid presented a long-term plan aimed at advancing economic prosperity, security and stability for the Gaza Strip.

  • In the first stage Israel will facilitate the rebuilding of Gaza’s electricity, water, health care, housing and transport in exchange for a coordinated effort against Hamas’s military build-up.
  • The second stage will include construction of a port and a transportation link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
  • Speaking at a conference at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Lapid said: “The international community and the people of Gaza need to know that Hamas terrorism is what’s standing between them and a normal life.”
  • “We need to tell Gazans at every opportunity – Hamas is leading you to ruin. No-one will come and invest real money, and no-one will try to build an economy in a place from which Hamas fires and which Israel strikes on a regular basis. The representative body of the Palestinians isn’t Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority. Israel won’t hand out prizes to radical terror organisations and weaken the authority that works opposite us in an organised manner.”
  • Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli communities on the border last night. The Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted both rockets and no damage was reported.
  • The Israeli Air Force (IAF) responded with air strikes. After the first rocket attack, the IAF targeted four military targets, training compounds, facilities for building and storing weapons, and an underground tunnel. Following the second rocket attack the IAF bombed a military outpost in Khan Yunis and a heavy machine gun. No injuries were reported
  • This morning there was an attempted stabbing attack against IDF soldiers at the Gush Etzion junction south of Jerusalem.  The assailant was neutralised by gunfire and taken to hospital in moderate-severe condition. There were no other casualties in the incident.

Context: Lapid sees both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egypt as key partners in his plan to rehabilitate Gaza.

  • In the first stage of the plan the electricity system will be repaired, Gaza’s gas infrastructure will be connected to regional suppliers, and a water desalination plant will be built. There will be significant improvements to the health care system and a rebuilding of housing and transport infrastructure. In exchange, Hamas will commit to long-term quiet.
  • The plan also empowers the PA, who will be given responsibility for the crossings.
  • In the second stage, a full economy for security plan will be laid out to incentivise Hamas to accept the Quartet’s three Principles (recognise Israel, renounce terror and respect previous agreements between Israel and the PA).
  • As part of the second stage:
    • The artificial island project off the coast of Gaza will be advanced and that will allow for the construction of a port.
    • A transportation link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be built.
    • Israel will encourage international investment inside the Gaza Strip.
    • Joint economic projects with Israel, Egypt and the PA will be advanced.
    • Industrial and employment zones will be built near the Erez Crossing.
  • Last night was the third consecutive night of rocket fire, on both previous evenings a single rocket was fired and intercepted by the Iron Dome.
  • Speaking at the same conference as Lapid, Defence Minister Benny Gantz related to relations with the PA: “We have a political dispute with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, which must be resolved, but we share a common desire for peace and security for all those who live between the sea and Jordan. It is for this reason, that I decided to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has been working against terrorism over the years, in the interests of his people and his national vision. In these challenging times, coordination with the Palestinian Authority and strengthening the Palestinian economy is dozens of times better than strengthening Iranian proxies on our borders.”
  • Over the weekend, four of the six escaped prisoners were found hiding in northern Israel.

Looking ahead: The manhunt for the missing two escaped prisoners continues.

  • IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi last night warned that if violence in the south were to escalate, Hamas and the entire Gaza Strip would pay a high price.
  • As agreed with Israel, the UN will today begin to distribute the Qatari aid to thousands of poor families in the Gaza Strip.
  • Prime Minister Bennett is soon expected to visit Egyptian President Sisi in Cairo.

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