Gov't Expected to Okay Peres Plan for Eilat-Dead Sea Canal

'Peace Valley' plan includes mass expansion of tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing in Jordan Valley.

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

At the center of Peres's "Peace Valley" plan is the building of the "Red-Dead" canal to run from the Israeli port city of Eilat on the Red Sea, 200 km to the Dead Sea.

The canal will drain 650 million cubic meters of water annually, and will serve to replenish the Dead Sea, which has been evaporating rapidly in recent years.

The canal will also lead to the construction of two artificial lakes in the Arava desert. Peres's plan calls for several hotels and holiday villages to be built along the banks of the lakes.

Peres's "Peace Valley" will require private funding and investors will receive allocations of land from Israel and Jordan.

Peres has recruited Israeli businessman Yitzhak Tshuva for the plan, and secured the support of King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Peres is also looking to recruit international investors for the plan.

Peres also recommended a shared airport be built for Eilat and Aqaba, 3 km from Eilat on the Red Sea in Jordan.

Under the Peres plan, there would be greater cooperation between Israel and Jordan on the mining of copper in the Arava desert, expanded "pre-seasonal" desert agriculture programs, and greater development of the tourism industry in the area.

In addition, the plan includes a railroad line to run from Arabid in Jordan to Haifa in Israel, the construction of schools and shared research facilities in the Jordan Valley and the Yarmuch Valley in Jordan, and the building of an industrial area next to Jenin in the West Bank.

King Abdullah has called for the construction of an airport at the Dead Sea, to serve the export of agriculture from the area. Abdullah also stated his desire to see the Jordan Valley used as an agricultural trading market for the Arab world.