Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refloated an initiative to construct artificial islands in Israel’s territorial waters as a solution for Israel’s limited territory, during a cabinet meeting Sunday. Mr. Netanyahu explained that Israel has many shoreline facilities such as desalination plants and power plans, which are taking up space in the country’s already limited coastal zone.
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“Israel is one of the most overcrowded countries in the world,” the Israeli leader said, adding that the country is projected to become, potentially, the “most overcrowded” by the middle of the century.
Israel’s population grew to 8.8 million in 2017, a 1.9% increase from 2016, according to the Israeli government’s Central Bureau of Statistics
“Today, I’m bringing to the cabinet’s approval a plan to establish a team that will jumpstart the construction of artificial islands,” Mr. Netanyahu said, adding that use of man-made islands could free up the Israeli coast from infrastructure.
In 2002, the Israeli government approved a plan to construct two artificial islands off the country’s shores, designating one for an international airport and one for housing. Similar plans are brought up every few years, most recently in 2012, when the cabinet greenlit a similar initiative intended to house an airport, a port, a military base, one desalination plant and one power plant.
In 2011, Israel’s Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz proposed building an artificial island off Gaza, as a long term solution for bringing supplies and aid into the blockaded Palestinian territory. The minister has been promoting the idea for several years, and presented his plan to the cabinet as late as June 2017.
Mr. Netanyahu said he has brought up the idea of artificial islands as early as 1996, during his first term as prime minister, but the plan fell through following opposition from environmental groups.
“In the 20 years that have passed since then, the technology for artificial islands has changed and evolved greatly,” Mr. Netanyahu explained the decision to refloat the initiative. The technology is more environmental friendly, and more viable financially. “This is definitely within our reach.”
Mr. Netanyahu instructed the chairman of Israel's National Economic Council, Avi Simhon, to form a team to study the feasibility of the idea and submit its recommendations within six months. “Other countries did great things in this domain,” Mr. Netanyahu said, which Israel can learn from. “This is an important, visionary project for the State of Israel.”