Israel’s foreign minister shows video promoting artificial island off Gaza

Video causes discomfort among EU representatives at Brussels talks on how to bring peace to region

Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz raised eyebrows by showing European Union counterparts a video promoting building an artificial island for Gaza at talks about how to bring peace to the region on Monday. The video caused discomfort among some EU representatives present at the Brussels talks, according to officials, who had hoped to make headway towards reaching an end to the conflict and easing suffering in Gaza as fears of starvation grow.

“The Israeli minister presented his plans for artificial islands off the coast of Gaza and his plan for a rail connection to India,” the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell told reporters. “This didn’t have much to do with what we were discussing. I think the minister could have made better use of his time, and focus on the security of his country bearing in mind the high number of deaths in Gaza.”

Mr Katz previously promoted the idea in his former role as transport minister in 2017 as an alternative to allowing Gaza to have a seaport, advocating that the international community pay for an artificial island patrolled by Israel that would allow supplies, energy, and water to reach Gaza by a bridge. One official described the video as “several years old” and “very bizarre”.

There have been growing frustrations with the Israeli administration of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu among some of the country’s close allies. Over the weekend Mr Netanyahu rejected a two-state solution in remarks seen as a snub to United States president Joe Biden as they came just after Mr Biden had indicated the prime minister might accept the idea following a bilateral phone call.


Several EU member states told the Israeli foreign minister that they favoured the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called two-state solution, Mr Borrell told reporters. “Member states made it clear, they said that the solution for a sustainable lasting peace that ensures security for Israel living side by side with neighbours would involve a setting up of a Palestinian state. We weren’t able to get him to change his mind, but we weren’t expecting that.”

Several ministers also told Mr Katz “directly” that Israel needed to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, according to Mr Borrell, who said that hardly 100 trucks were able to enter the besieged territory each day instead of the 500 that would enter in normal times.

“We see now that innocent civilians are even starving to death. And we can’t see that happen,” Finnish foreign affairs minister Elina Valtonen told reporters.

The talks in Brussels on Monday brought together representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine in a bid to find a path towards peace.

Jordan’s foreign affairs minister Ayman Safadi said Israel was “defying the whole international community” by rejecting the two-state solution. “Israel with this current policy, with the current aggression on Gaza, with its current measures to undermine the two-state solution, is dooming the future of the region to more conflict and more war.”

A statement released by Mr Netanyahu’s office after the call with Mr Biden on Sunday stated that Israel must retain “security control over Gaza” to ensure it no longer poses a threat, “a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty”.

Mr Netanyahu then doubled down on the statement with a series of posts on social media in which he said a Palestinian state would pose “an existential danger to Israel” and that Israel must retain control of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over all the territory west of Jordan – and this is contrary to a Palestinian state,” he wrote.

On arrival to the marathon talks between EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Tánaiste Micheál Martin criticised the remarks by Mr Netanyahu rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state.

“A two-state solution is the ultimate security guarantee to Israel and to Israeli citizens, and to Palestinians, in terms of future prospects of living in harmonious coexistence. There is no other alternative on the table to a two-state solution that is sustainable. The reports we are receiving, even as late as last evening are dire in respect of what’s happening in Gaza in terms of starvation, in terms of the humanitarian consequences of this war. And there is no excuse now for any tardiness or for any delays in respect of getting vital aid into Gaza, and we’ll be making those points very strongly.”

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times