Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid yesterday proposed a plan to defeat the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in Gaza based on economic improvements.
In an address to the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Conference, Lapid said: "We need to start a large, multiyear process of the economy for security."
He said that reoccupying Gaza or repeated Israeli offensives are not the best ways to deal with Gaza and neutralise Hamas and the other resistance groups.
"Those are two bad options," he said. "That's not a reality we can accept." Israel should not talk directly with Hamas, he added, while proposing an "economy for security" plan.
"Israel doesn't speak to terrorist organisations who want to destroy us," he said. "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 where Hamas fires and that Israel strikes on a regular basis."
"Our position of strength allows us to initiate instead of sitting and waiting for the next round," he said, vowing that Israel would free its soldiers held as prisoners of war by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza as part of his plan.
The plan, he stated, consists of two stages: The first is related to improving the humanitarian conditions in Gaza with the international community making sure that Hamas stops arming itself and smuggling weapons and stopping its funds.
"The electricity system will be repaired, gas will be connected, a water desalination plant will be built, significant improvements to the healthcare system and a rebuilding of housing and transportation infrastructure will take place," Lapid said. "In exchange, Hamas will commit to long-term quiet."
The Palestinian Authority will control Gaza crossings except for Rafah, which is controlled by Egypt, he said, noting that Cairo is critical to this process. After long-term positive results, Israel would give Gaza energy independence, he added.
If the first stage succeeded, the second stage would see changes to Gaza's economy, the construction of an artificial island port off the coast, and transportation links with the West Bank.
This stage would promote economic projects with Israel, Egypt, and the PA, including industrial zones near the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, with international investment from the EU, US, the IMF, the World Bank, and the UAE, the Jerusalem Post reported.
According to Lapid, this plan would strengthen the PA, which will be responsible for the civil management of the Gaza Strip.
"In Gaza, we can, and we should act now," he stressed, adding that he had discussed the plan with leaders in Egypt and the Gulf states, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the EU.