Hamas on Friday rejected an offer by Israel’s defense minister to turn the Gaza Strip “into the Singapore of the Middle East” by creating jobs and building infrastructure.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a spokesperson for the terrorist group, said that if Gaza sought to be like Singapore, it would have already been done, Israeli media reported.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s offer was posted on Thursday in Arabic on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the body responsible for coordinating Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories, as part of an effort to create pressure on Hamas.
Lieberman proposed building a seaport and an airport in Gaza, as well as creating an industrial zones that would help create 40,000 jobs in the strip, if Hamas agreed to demilitarization and to dismantling the tunnel and rocket systems it has built up.
“There is no reason for the residents of Gaza to live in the 21st century under lesser conditions than in Judea and Samaria or in the Arab world,” Lieberman said. “The Gazans must understand that Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last millimeter, is not the source of their suffering — it is the Hamas leadership, which doesn’t take their needs into consideration. The moment Hamas gives up its tunnels and rockets, we’ll be the first to invest.”
He also demanded that Hamas return the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and release the three Israeli civilians who entered Gaza on their own accord but are thought to suffer from mental health issues — Abera Mengistu, Hishan al-Sayed, and Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima.
“We’re open people,” Lieberman added in the online statement. “We must find the right formula that would allow the two peoples not only to exist but also prosper. When you reach an agreement with someone, it’s not going to work if only one side is benefiting. The two sides need to benefit and feel like they’ve gotten a good deal.”
Lieberman’s offer came ten days after a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel, which led to retaliatory tank fire and air strikes. While Israel is not seeking a new war, Lieberman warned “any provocation will be met with a powerful response.”