Diplomatic source to Post: Gaza maritime route was Netanyahu’s idea – exclusive

The plan for a maritime route to Gaza via Cyprus to provide humanitarian assistance for Palestinians was initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in collaboration with US President Joe Biden, a senior diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night. 

“Netanyahu took the initiative to establish maritime humanitarian aid for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, in collaboration with the Biden administration,” the source stated.

According to the source, on October 22, two weeks following the war’s outbreak, Netanyahu discussed with President Biden the concept of “delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza via the sea, contingent on an Israeli inspection in Cyprus.”

A pre-outlined strategy

“Then, on October 31, Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined this strategy to Cypriot President [Nikos] Christodoulides,” the source added.

In addition, “The matter was revisited on January 19 during a dialogue between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the President of the United States, where Netanyahu proposed, according to the source, “I want to suggest setting up a team to explore maritime supply through Cyprus, after a thorough inspection of all goods.”

A platform loaded with humanitarian aid for Gaza is guided by a tugboat at the port of Larnaca, Cyprus March 10, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU)

This source, close to the Prime Minister, insinuated that Biden was simply implementing a plan by Netanyahu, not actually initiating anything new.

The source spoke with The Jerusalem Post at a time of heightened diplomatic tensions between Biden and Netanyahu, as the US President has sought to distance himself from the Israeli Prime Minister as part of the 2024 re-election campaign.

Biden made headlines at his State of the Union address to Congress last Thursday when he announced that the US military planned to build an emergency temporary port off the Gaza coastline to help facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

He made the statement in light of the hunger crisis in Gaza and to underscore the US commitment to helping the Palestinian people during Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas.

The move was also viewed as a criticism of Netanyahu by the United States, with Biden stating in his speech on Thursday that Israel could and should do more to help Palestinians in Gaza.

Years before the Gaza war, Israel Katz, now the Foreign Minister, had drawn up plans for a maritime route via Cyprus involving a floating island.

The project was never executed. But he revived it after the war began on October 7. 

One of the complicating factors with a maritime route was the absence of a port in Gaza big enough to handle cargo ships.

Israel has welcomed Biden’s announcement of a military operation to build a temporary port. 

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, together with the Navy Commander, the head of COGAT, Military Secretary and Commander of the Navy’s Ashdod Arena were briefed Sunday on the work needed to establish a naval pier and routes that will enable the distribution of aid to civilians.