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Will Canal of Peace Resolve Israel-Arab Conflict?

Posted May. 30, 2008 03:01,   

Updated January. 01, 1970 09:00

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A joint canal project of Israel and Arab nations has begun in full swing to restore the Dead Sea. If the nations successfully pursue the canal project to restore the inland river, well-known for its salty water in which people float without any effort, it will become a symbol representing peaceful relations between Israel and Arab nations.

The water level in the Dead Sea, located between Israel and Jordan, drops by 1 meter each year since neighboring nations use around 70-90 percent of the water from the Jordan River that should flow into the salty lake. Russian news agency Novosti predicted, “The Dead Sea will dry up in 50 years if the nations keep using the water recklessly.”

After signing a peace treaty in 1994, Israel and Jordan began discussing how to construct a huge canal so as to divert water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. However, they have yet to resolve the issue due to their failure to raise the money amounting to $5 billion (around 5 trillion won) to construct the canal.

○ Efforts of Israeli entrepreneurs

The Jerusalem Post, an Israeli English-language daily, recently reported that some Israeli entrepreneurs including Elad Properties Chairman Yitzhak Tshuva, Chairwoman of Bank Hapoalim Shari Arison and ISCAR`s founder and Chairman Stef Wertheimer decided to invest in constructing the 166-kilometer-long canal connecting the Red Sea to the salty lake.

Tshuva also announced its plan to build the world’s largest botanical garden and hotels, which can accommodate 200,000 tourists near the Dead Sea. The daily reported, “The two nations have finally won a significant supporter of the canal project.”

The Jordanian government has also aggressively supported the plan. The Jordan Times reported on Wednesday, “The government, the World Bank, and British and French entrepreneurs have analyzed the validity of the canal project and its impact on the environment and are drawing up construction plans.”

Weekly economic magazine BusinessWeek’s online edition reported on Wednesday Israeli President Shimon Peres said the huge canal could be constructed in two years, at the earliest.

○ Contributing to Middle Eastern peace

In a recent report, the U.S. Congressional Research Service explained, “Environmental organizations worry if water is diverted from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, the ecosystem will be destroyed. But, a majority of experts believe that the huge canal would restore the inland lake and stabilize the relations between Israel and Arab nations.

The canal is expected not only to ease the water shortage but also to create jobs, encouraging neighboring nations to strengthen their cooperation.

BusinessWeek explained that the project would create a massive desalination complex capable of producing a billion cubic meters of fresh water annually, which is enough to meet 30 percent of the water needs of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Attracted by the abundant water supply, even the Palestinian government, which has been at loggerheads with Israel, supports the canal project.

The Jerusalem Post also analyzed that around a million new jobs will be created when the canal is constructed and other tourist attractions are established, which will, in turn, contribute a lot to neighboring countries’ economies.



will71@donga.com