The Gaza Port Plan Is Foolish and Dangerous

In recent months, the suggestion to build an offshore port for the Gaza Strip has been circulating in think tanks and among Israeli officials. Ostensibly the port would allow the territory to import and export goods more freely while also enabling Israel to monitor shipments for weapons. Initially, the idea was to build an artificial island a mile or two off Gaza’s coast; now Cyprus has been proposed as a possible location. Martin Sherman argues against both plans:

[First], how would Israel monitor the use of dual-purpose materials like fertilizer (also ‎used to make explosives), metals (used in ‎rockets), and cement? Even today, despite strict ‎supervision, about 90 percent of the cement delivered into ‎Gaza is appropriated by Hamas for non-civilian ‎purposes, such as the construction of terror ‎tunnels. ‎. . . And in the ‎Cyprus version, how would Israel be able to prevent ‎military equipment from being smuggled onto a vessel ‎left ‎unsupervised after it departs Cyprus and begins traveling to Gaza? . . .

[The primary] reason offered in ‎support of the idea is that the proposed Cyprus port ‎would ease the economic hardship in Gaza and therefore diminish the violence ‎against Israel, and also that it would be contingent on the ‎return of two Israelis and ‎the remains of two IDF soldiers ‎held by Hamas.

The first argument essentially validates the false Palestinian ‎narrative that terrorism is the result of the ‎‎“occupation” and therefore Israel is responsible for ‎it. [But] if [Palestinians] ‎want to improve their situation in Gaza, all they ‎have to do is to stop trying to murder Jews and ‎allow Israeli entrepreneurship and creativity to ‎help Gaza prosper. ‎

The second argument essentially fuels Palestinian ‎extortion. If holding bodies and live captives gets ‎the Palestinian a port, why wouldn’t they see it ‎as a clear invitation to continue with this policy?‎ [Furthermore], Gaza already has a ‎port: Ashdod, an Israeli city closer to Gaza ‎than it is to most other Israeli cities. The Ashdod port ‎can easily meet all of Gaza’s needs. Besides, in the ‎event of war, does anyone really want the ‎Palestinians to have access to a port?

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Cyprus, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian economy

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security