Yitzhak Tshuva unveiled his plans for building the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal yesterday, known as the Peace Channel, which is to run 166 kilometers from Eilat on the Red Sea north to the Dead Sea.
The Israeli billionaire told the "Facing Tomorrow" President's Conference in Jerusalem that Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal had expressed a willingness to invest in the project, which aims to provide electricity and potable water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Tshuva said the prince was ready to begin working on the project immediately, in coordination with Jordan. He quoted Prince Walid as saying that peace and economies go hand in hand, and that it is inconceivable that a peace accord could be signed by people who can't afford to feed their children.
Tshuva announced that leading business people from around the world had also expressed interest in joining the project, including Israelis Shari Arison, Benny Steinmetz, Nochi Dankner and Stef Wertheimer. He said Wertheimer was ready to begin working on the project immediately by building an industrial village, and that within two years from the start of work, water would be able to flow.
He said President Shimon Peres, the host of the international conference, shared a similar vision; Peres has been promoting the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal for many years.
Tshuva said it was a great honor to take part in a project that will turn the border between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority into a "valley of peace." Only financial ties between nations will bring stability and peace to the region, he added.
Estimates are for the project's first stage to cost $3 billion, with the entire dream coming in at around $16 billion.
The plan, according to Tshuva, includes the desalination of a billion cubic meters of water each year, which comprises 30% of the water consumed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians combined. The water will be directed to arid land and allow millions of people to live along both sides of the canal.
The 420-meter difference in elevation between Eilat and the Dead Sea, the lowest place in the world, will be exploited to generate electricity, and the desalinated water will promote agriculture and greenhouses, with exports in mind, Tshuva explained.
He said tourist attractions were also planned along the banks of the canal, including parks, lagoons and entertainment centers as well as hotels and beaches. Up to 200,000 hotel rooms are in store - three times the number currently in Israel, he said.
This means that Israel could accommodate 8 million tourists, rather than the 2 million it can host today. More people will be involved in industry, Tshuva said, with peace being achieved through understanding, job opportunities and goodwill.
The area surrounding the canal, Tshuva continued, will be declared a free-trade zone to entice companies from around the world. He said the project could potentially generate over 1 million new jobs, of which some 300,000 to 400,000 would go to Palestinians. Industry rather than terror would be the focus, he said, providing a solution for both sides.
Tshuva concluded with hopes that regulators in Israel and Jordan will swiftly legislate a canal law to facilitate the issuing of international tenders. He voiced hope that other nations will support the project and advance peace in the region.
Lior Kodner adds:
Google co-founder Sergey Brin lauded Israeli innovations in technology and environmental efforts yesterday, saying Israel "takes our climate challenges very seriously." Brin told TheMarker that these challenges have "great geopolitical ramifications on this country, in addition to environmental ones."
He noted Israel's leading efforts in the field of sustainable energy. "Obviously in Israel they need to innovate with water and things like that. I was really intrigued to see drip irrigation. I just realized that came out of Israel," he said.
Brin gave particular attention to Israel's work in environmentally friendly transportation.
A prototype of the world's first fully electric car was demonstrated for the first time on Sunday in Tel Aviv, by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi.
Developers hope the car will revolutionize transportation in the country and serve as a pilot for the rest of the world. If all goes as planned, Israel will be the first country to have electric cars on its highways in large numbers in the next few years.
Brin also spoke about new projects at Google, including the "huge range of efforts" being made on mobile technology and the patience needed in the field.
During his visit, Brin toured a number of Jewish sites, including the Western Wall.
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