Cabinet to Review Peace Valley Project

Vice Premier Shimon Peres will present his Peace Valley program for the development of the border areas between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to the cabinet for its approval in approximately two weeks.

According to a draft government agreement, a managing body will be set up to handle the negotiations with the relevant parties to further the project whose cost is estimated at $10 billion.

The project will be funded by private investments, and Israel and Jordan will allot land to entrepreneurs.

Peres managed to attract Yitzhak Tshuva, a leading businessman, to the venture. Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas approved the venture, and Peres held meetings with international figures and leaders of parties in the Knesset, none of whom, the Vice Premier says, expressed their opposition to the project.

According to Peres, the chances that the current development project will succeed are greater than a similar venture he put forth in the 1990s. Peres says that now there is greater awareness of the ecological dangers posed by the likely disappearence of the Dead Sea, and the private sector is willing to invest in such projects.

"In the last decade there were no billionaires in Israel and now there are," Peres said.

"The plans in the past failed because of the lack of funding and the availability of time," he added.

At the center of the project is a 200 kilometer canal from Eilat to the Dead Sea (the Red-Dead Canal), which will pour 650 million cubic meters of water into the drying lake.

In the past there was talk of a longer canal that would also contribute water toward the production of electricity, but research revealed the shorter canal option was the better solution.

Two artificial lakes will be built along the canal. Hotels and other tourist projects will be built on their shores.

Peres is also recommending the development of a joint Eilat-Aqaba airport - a project that has been held back for more than a decade.

He is also suggesting the development of pre-seasonal agriculture for export and the mining of copper on both sides of the border.

Peres said that King Abdullah would like to build an airport for agricultural exports in the northern Dead Sea, and Japan is proposing a center for agricultural exports to the Arab countries close to the Damiya Bridge in the Jordan Valley.