Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, seen as a credible rival to Binyamin Netanyahu for the leadership of the Likud, on Sunday presented his roadmap for the future of Yerushalayim, and for relations with the Palestinians and the Arab world. At the center of Katz’s plan is incorporating Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Ilit and other smaller towns in the Yerushalayim area into a single metropolis. The different sections of Metropolitan Yerushalayim will operate as interdependent boroughs, each managing its own affairs but a part of the city for administrative, budgeting and other purposes, as is the case in New York and London.
Arab villages and neighborhoods beyond the security fence that are currently part of the Yerushalayim municipality will be set up with their own municipal administration, providing their own services independently for residents. Arab municipal administrators would be free to make their own decisions on construction, budgets, etc. Essential services like water, electricity, and law enforcement would remain in the hands of Metropolitan Jerusalem, but education and other services would be provided by the local rulers.
In addition to the metropolis idea, Katz sees the construction of a “service island” off the coast of Gaza as a solution for residents of the Strip, and an opportunity for Israel to completely divorce itself from Gaza affairs. The island would include a port, where Israeli or international security officials could examine shipments for the presence of weapons. The island would also include a water desalination plant and an electricity plant, providing sufficient water to Gaza. The island would be connected to shore via a bridge. Thus, Gazans would have a “window to the world,” while Israel could preserve its security, Katz said.
Another idea Katz has is to construct a rail line between Haifa and Jordan. Jordan, the Emirates, and other Sunni nations willing to work with Israel could transport or import goods to and from Haifa Port, considerably lowering the cost and time required for shipments to and from Europe, enabling those countries to avoid sending their goods through the Suez Canal, and avoiding the increasingly-dangerous Persian Gulf. Palestinian Authority cities would be stops on the line, allowing PA residents to enjoy the economic benefits of the rail line as well.
“This plan enhances Israel’s position and improves the situation in the region, without closing the door to future negotiations,” said Katz, adding that he was “strongly opposed to plans that have been bandied about that would give Israeli citizenship to 150,000 Palestinian residents of Area C, who very soon after receiving their Israeli ID cards will turn into several hundred thousands.” The annexation of Area C, where more than 80 percent of Jewish residents of Yehuda and Shomron live, has been proposed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of Jewish Home.