Israel has denied that its foreign minister, Israel Katz, had proposed temporarily housing Palestinians from Gaza on an island in the Mediterranean, as reported by The Guardian on Monday.
The British newspaper claimed that Katz had made a video presentation to EU foreign ministers in Brussels, in which he said that Palestinians from Gaza “could be housed on an artificial island in the Mediterranean…as an alternative to the two-state solution“.
The report said that the video referred to a plan made “some years ago” when Katz was transport minister, and that it was part of his vision to create a “regional transportation corridor” that would link Israel with India via Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.
However, the Israeli foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, rejecting the report as “false and misleading”.
“There is no such plan, and the foreign minister never said such a thing,” the statement said. “The foreign minister presented to the EU ministers a plan to build a port for Gaza on an artificial island, which he has been promoting for years as a way to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza, without compromising Israel’s security.”
The statement added that Katz had also mentioned the possibility of building housing units on the island, but only as a “secondary option” and not as a “substitute for the two-state solution”.
The statement also said that Katz had reiterated Israel’s position that the only way to achieve peace and stability in the region was through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the principle of two states for two peoples.
The Israeli foreign ministry’s denial was echoed by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who said that the video shown by Katz was “very interesting” but “off-topic”.
Borrell said that the video dealt with a port and a rail corridor, but not with a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He also said that he had urged Katz to end the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians and displaced nearly 2 million, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
He said that he had told Katz that the EU was “very concerned” about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and that it was ready to provide assistance and support for a cease-fire and a dialogue.
He also said that he had told Katz that the EU was committed to the two-state solution, and that it would not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders, including in Jerusalem, unless agreed by both parties.
The conflict was triggered by a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, which killed about 1,200 Israelis and took about 240 hostages in Gaza. Israel responded with a massive aerial and ground assault on the Gaza Strip, aiming to destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure and to rescue the hostages.
Israel has also declared that it opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of any post-war scenario, and that it would insist on “full Israeli security control over all the territory west of the Jordan River”.
Israel’s stance has drawn criticism and condemnation from the international community, especially the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said that the refusal to accept a two-state solution was “unacceptable” and that the scale of civilian killings in Gaza was “heartbreaking and utterly unacceptable”.