Valley of Peace initiative
The Valley of Peace initiative is an effort to promote economic cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians, based around efforts and joint projects in the Arava/Arabah Valley, along which runs the southern portion of the Israel - Jordan border. It has received the personal attention and support of Shimon Peres, President of Israel. The initiative involves ongoing joint efforts by regional leaders to launch joint new industrial and economic projects, which will create new local businesses and job growth, and promote ongoing cooperation.
This effort also fits with other new trends and efforts within Israeli and Palestinian society to promote reconciliation based on joint economic effort and dialogue between both groups.
One major component of this plan is the construction and operation of Qualifying Industrial Zones. These are industrial facilities within Jordan and Egypt which can serve as centers of collaborative effort.
Overview and current status
The formal proposal for the Valley of Peace initiative began with a joint proposal in 2008 to build a canal between the Red and Dead Seas, desalinating the water, producing hydroelectric power and yielding profits, clean water, jobs and potentially unprecedented regional cooperation. The study concluded in 2013, and an agreement was signed in 2013 by Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority to move ahead with the plan.
In February 2015, Israel and Jordan signed an agreement to exchange water and jointly convey Red Sea brine to the shrinking Dead Sea. The agreement was reported to be worth about $800 million. It was the result of a memorandum of understanding signed among Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials on December 9, 2013, in Washington. Under this agreement, Jordan and Israel will share the potable water produced by a future desalination plant in Aqaba, while a pipeline will supply saltwater to the Dead Sea.
A new desalination plant to be built near the Jordanian tourist resort of Aqaba would convert salt water from the Red Sea into fresh water for use in southern Israel and southern Jordan; each region would get eight billion to 13 billion gallons a year. This process would produces about as much brine as a waste product; the brine would be piped more than 100 miles to help replenish the Dead Sea, already known for its high salt content. This would reinforce the status of the Dead Sea as an important economic resource to both nations, in multiple areas including tourism, industry and business.
Original plan and features, 2008
The effort first got attention in 2008, when various regional leaders began to promote this set of ideas.
One major part of the plan includes the private sector development of a $3 billion, 166 km-long (103-mile) canal system along the Arava, known as the Two Seas Canal. This engineering scheme would bring Red Sea water to the Dead Sea and could provide additional projects and benefits to the region and increase cooperation between Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, through greater development and economic integration. Some environmentalists have criticized the plan, saying that rehabilitation of the Jordan River would be a better way to save the Dead Sea, and would bring less disruption.
This Valley of Peace is part of a 20-kilometer [23-mile] corridor being proposed by Israeli President Shimon Peres for regional economic development. About 420 km of the corridor runs along the Jordanian border, with no border fences, and another 100 km touches on the Palestinian territories. Other projects involve the German, Japanese, and Turkish governments and are slated to create up to a million new jobs in Israel and the West Bank.
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Original project contents, 2008
As first proposed in 2008, the plan encompassed a number of items. Some possible future developments along the canal may include convention centers, hotels for up to 200,000 people, restaurants, parks, and artificial lakes and lagoons, and greenhouses for winter fruits and vegetables. A high-speed train line and highway would run along the canal allowing travel between the Dead and Red Seas within an hour. The area may also become a free-trade zone, thus attracting investment from around the world.
The canal might also include a major desalinization plant. In May 2008, it was announced that this project was getting close to being implemented.
PIEFZA is a Palestinian economic organization designed to promote participation in the industrial parks which will be created by this effort. The project will also include a number of other separate efforts and projects, including:
- An industrial area in Jenin to create jobs, with support from Germany, which pledged about $30 million to help with this. This would be used for businesses in the fields of textile, wood, and food products. A similar effort has already succeeded in the Jordanian industrial zone.
- An agro-industrial park to be built near Jericho, with support from Japan.
- The "Erez Industrial Estate" project - a free industrial zone near Erez crossing, with support from Turkey. It will be supported through a joint effort by Turkish, Israeli and Palestinian private sectors, known as the Ankara Forum which will also pursue other common economic goals and industrial projects. The project received the support of the Israeli, Turkish and Palestinian presidents during a trilateral summit in Ankara the previous November, according to an aide to Peres.
- A hi-tech industrial park in Nazareth by entrepreneur Stef Wertheimer, which will start construction in May 2010. Wertheimer has stated, "Coexistence in the industrial park in Arab Nazareth is a good example of coexistence. When people work together, they have no time for nonsense. They're too tired at night to commit terrorist acts. They're satisfied, they engage in producing. They work together, not against each other." Wertheimer has founded four industrial parks in Israel. "The idea of industrial parks in the Middle East and on the borders between Israel and its neighbors is that the parks will bring industry and provide jobs, which will keep people busy working, instead of engaging in terrorism," explains Wertheimer. One park is the Tefen Industrial Park which includes everything from transportation to cultural and educational facilities. In April 2013, a new industrial park opened in Nazareth. He has established seven industrial parks – in Tefen, Tel-Hai, Dalton, Lavon and now Nazareth in the Galilee; in Omer in the Negev; and another in Turkey.
- A car factory to be operated jointly by Israel and Jordan. It would manufacture cars made by Toyota and Renault.
- an airport in Eilat shared by Jordan and Israel, which will facilitate future cooperation in tourism between the two countries. It would include a Jordanian terminal, for tourists to Jordan, and an Israeli terminal, leading tourism to Eilat.
- A railway connection between Jordan and Israel, which would facilitate shipments of goods between the two countries.
- Agro-industrial development in Jericho, enabling the region to be a major agricultural source for the Middle East. Japan has offered to aid in the development of this.
- A joint Israeli-Palestinian university and medical center. This effort would be led by Ali Dogramaci, a Turkish professor, and will be located on the Israeli side of the Green Line, between Afula and Jenin. As of June 2009, the status of this project is in doubt due to some objections raised by some officials within the Israeli Government. However, the Turkish Government has given this effort some encouragement.
Project origins, 2005–2008
In July 2006, Japan announced a plan for peace called "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity", which would be based on common economic development and effort, rather than on continuous contention over land. Shimon Peres gave this idea much attention during his participation in an international conference in New York in September 2006 which was organized by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
In March 2007, at a two-day conference in Tokyo which included officials from Japan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Japan discussed its plan for peace based on common economic development and effort. Both sides stated their support.
In March 2007, the Israeli Cabinet officially decided to adopt the Peace Valley plan, which would entail promotion of and cooperation on economic development for Palestinians. However, some news reports indicated there was little chance of movement due to lack of attention by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the government of Israel.
In his inaugural speech in July 2007, Peres mentioned this effort, and asserted that there was great potential for cooperation among Israel, Palestinians, and Jordan. He also noted this might mean positive support from Persian Gulf states. In August 2007, Peres met with several Israeli businessmen to discuss ways to press the plan forward. Peres stated that the plan might have many positive effects which might help promote peace.
In August 2007, Foreign Ministers of Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Japan met in Jericho, and formally agreed to go ahead with this plan. A ceremony took place that month in Jericho formally launching the project. it was attended by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah Khatib.
In January 2008, Peres announced that the plan had moved closer to realization, as new details were announced for implementation of joint economic effort in four locations in the West Bank. This included specific plans for industrial projects, and a jointly-built university, and investments from several countries, including Japan, Turkey and Germany. Peres discussed this with Tony Blair during Blair's visit to the Mideast in February 2008. Peres said that efforts were moving ahead.
USAID and the World Bank have reviewed many of the specific proposals in depth, and issued a critique of many strengths and weaknesses of the plan. In May 2008 Tony Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas on the Peace Valley plan.
In May 2008, Peres hosted a conference in celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary, called "Facing Tomorrow". He addressed numerous issues related to Israel's future. He discussed the Peace Valley initiative with numerous foreign leaders. President George Bush expressed support for the idea. Peres said that the initiative could bring lasting peace and transformation to the region. Regarding Palestinians, he said,
"They haven't established a proper government and they don't have an army. We can't unite them and we can't divide them. We can't help them politically. We can only help them economically. Today, it's possible to coordinate economic aid with both the Jordanians and the Palestinians."
Local planning and efforts, 2008–2011
In May 2008, a major economic international conference was held in Bethlehem, at which various businessmen and local leaders discussed various opportunities for economic development. Several leaders addressed the conference, including the director of the World Bank. The conference was sponsored by various international private companies and some public organizations. Conference sessions covered many details of Palestinian Development. One agricultural entrepreneur noted that Israel is his biggest market, while others speakers noted the need for coordination with Israel to allow further development.
One major part of the plan consists of a canal between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. In May 2008, Yitzhak Tshuva, an Israeli businessman, announced plans to launch this project. This would involve labor by both Israelis and Palestinians. It would also include a major desalinization plant.
In July 2008, the Japanese government reiterated its support for the plan in meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, and urged the sides to continue working towards completion. Japan also indicated specific support for an agro-industrial park to be built near Jericho, and said it hopes to begin construction by 2009.
Efforts at joint development and dialogue have also moved forward on the local level in the Jenin area, through ongoing contact between the Israeli Gilboa Regional Council and local Palestinian officials of the Jenin district. Groundbreaking on the Jenin project is hoped to occur by January 2009.
In June 2009, after a meeting with World Bank President Robert Zoellick, the Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister, Silvan Shalom, announced a pilot project to build a "pilot" pipe 180 km long from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The pipe would pump 200 million cubic meters per year. Half of this would be desalinated for Jordanian consumption and half put into the Dead Sea. Some experts questioned this project. Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Avner Adin said more studies were needed on the potential environmental impact. However, various groups and government officials from several countries say that the pipeline is needed to save the Dead Sea, which may be in danger of drying up due to some environmental factors.
Benjamin Netanyahu, a former Finance Minister of Israel and the current Prime Minister of Israel has repeatedly made public statements during the 2009 Israeli elections which advocated an approach to peace based on economic cooperation and joint effort, rather than continuous contention over political and diplomatic issues. He raised these ideas during discussions with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Netanyahu continued to advocate these ideas as the Israeli elections got nearer and plans to execute them after he assumed office.
Netanyahu has said:
Right now, the peace talks are based only one thing, only on peace talks. It makes no sense at this point to talk about the most contractible issue. It's Jerusalem or bust, or right of return or bust. That has led to failure and is likely to lead to failure again....We must weave an economic peace alongside a political process. That means that we have to strengthen the moderate parts of the Palestinian economy by handing rapid growth in those area, rapid economic growth that gives a stake for peace for the ordinary Palestinians."
Similarly, in a Jerusalem Post interview, Tony Blair, the special envoy for the Quartet, said in May 2009:
Question: ...we're hearing about a determination to build from the bottom up with the Palestinians, including assurances that economic projects that had been stymied will now be advanced...
Blair: ...you have to build from the bottom up as well as negotiate from the top down...because once you take the three "headings" - politics, economics and security... Each of these things take decisions...it will become apparent, whether Israelis are prepared to build from the bottom up, and whether Palestinians understand that Israel will only tolerate a Palestinian state that is a stable and secure neighbor......people ask me, why are you bothered about whether there's a bit of agri-industrial thing around Jericho. And I say, because it matters. The detail on the ground really matters. Just supposing you've [created the conditions] in the Jericho area to exploit the [tourism] potential it has got. You're creating a whole set of stake-holders who, when it comes to those difficult concessions, are going to say, "We want the state." They are then believing in a reality, not a shibboleth...
Implementation and effects
The Bethlehem Small Enterprise Center opened in early 2008 with funding from Germany, and has helped Palestinian small businesses in various areas, such as helping printers to improve software and olive wood craftsmen to market their products.
In 2008, the economy in the West Bank improved gradually. Economic growth for the occupied areas reached about 4-5% and unemployment dropped about 3%. Israeli figures indicated that wages in the West Bank rose more than 20% in 2008 and trade rose about 35%. Tourism in Bethlehem increased to about twice its previous levels, and tourism increased by 50% in Jericho. In 2009, an economic boom began with growth reaching 7 percent, higher than in Israel or the West. Tourism to Bethlehem, which had doubled to 1 million in 2008, rose to nearly 1.5 million in 2009. New car imports increased by 44 percent. New shopping malls opened in Jenin and Nablus. Palestinian developers are planning to build the first modern Palestinian city, Rawabi.
In 2009, efforts continued to build Palestinian local institutions and governments from the ground up. Much of this work was done by Tony Blair and U.S. General Keith Dayton. Some analysts saw this as a more substantial way to lay a groundwork for viable institutions and for local peace.
- Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- Projects working for peace among Arabs and Israelis
- Middle East economic integration
- Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal
- Israeli-Palestinian economic peace efforts
- Specific groups
- Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine
- Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
- Alliance for Middle East Peace
- Israel, Jordan, PA and Japan Launch 'Valley of Peace', 8/15/07.
- 'A valley of economic harmony by Yaakov Lappin, jpost.com, 1/18/08.
- Dramatic new support for Red-Dead plan By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH, Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2008.
- Israel, Jordan unveil $800m joint plan for ‘Red-Dead’ canal: As well as rejuvenating the rapidly diminishing Dead Sea, the canal will bring drinking water to both countries, Times of Israel, December 1, 2015.
- Israel, Jordan sign historic plan to save Dead Sea, By Sharon Udasin, jpost.com 02/27/2015.
- Israel Desalinization Technology Leads to “Historic” Agreement with Jordan, israelideas.org, April 22, 2015.
- A Mideast Valley of Peace, by Jennifer L. Schenker Businessweek article, May 29, 2008.
- The Red Sea and the Mediterranean Dead Sea canals project Israel MFA website, 10 Aug 2002.
- Environmentalists slam World Bank over Red-Dead canal By RORY KRESS, jpost.com, Aug 12, 2007.
- Spiegel article, Sept 2007.
- Piefza website details, also at Organization details at the group's website.
- German cooperation with the Palestinian Territories: Economic reform and employment, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), official Germany government website, April 2007.
- 'Valley of peace, - by Shimon Peres, posted Friday, August 10, 2007 on IsraCast.com.
- Face Time with Shimon Peres, cnn.com, 12/3/07.
- Press statement: The Third Ministerial-Level Meeting of the Four-Party Consultative Unit for the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" Japan Min of Foreign Affairs, 2 July 2008, Tokyo.
- A tripartite revitalization of Erez, Epri Director Güven Sak, Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey Jan 16, 2006.
- “Ankara Forum” Efforts to Foster Economic Cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority Continue, World Trade Center Israel Ltd., Nov. 2005, viewed as HTML document.
- Ankara Forum and ‘realpolitik’ lesson in Ankara…, acturca.wordpress.com/, 11/13/07.
- Abbas adviser: 'not a word' written of joint statement by Yaakov Katz, jpost.com, 11/13/07.
- Your guide today is... Shimon Peres, by Ron Friedman, Jerusalem Post, Jan 13, 2010.
- Stef Wertheimer's New Middle East Israel21c, January 11, 2004
- Peace through industrial parks: Israeli entrepreneur Stef Wertheimer wants to convert the Middle East to capitalism. Sep 18th 2003, economist.com
- Stef Wertheimer opens Nazareth Industrial Park Israel MFA, accessed 5/6/2015.
- Israel, Jordan to build cars together, by IEICI, ynetnews.com, 05/30/07.
- Why Israel's rejection of 'peace' hospital offer angered Turkey, by Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, 6/22/09.
- Japan's Concept for Creating the Corridor for Peace and Prosperity (Background Paper) July, 2006, Government of Japan.
- Peres to meet Musharraf and kings of Jordan, Morocco, Israel Today, 9/18/06.
- Israelis, Palestinians applaud Japanese development plan Associated Press via Haaretz.com, 3/15/2007
- Peres' 'Peace Valley' Project Approved, Arutz Sheva, israelnationalnews.com, Mar/11/07.
- Gov't pushes Peres 'Peace Valley' plan, By Herb Keinon, jpost.com, Mar 11, 2007.
- Border Control: $2.5 billion seeks government minister By Akiva Eldar, 06/11/2007.
- Address to the Knesset by Shimon Peres on assuming the office of President of Israel, MFA website, 7/15/07.
- President's office: Meeting with Israeli businessmen, Office of the President of Israel, 8/8/07.
- Face Time with Shimon Peres, cnn.com, 12/3/2007.
- Israel, Jordan, PA and Japan Launch 'Valley of Peace', Israel National news, 8/15/07.
- 'Peace Valley' project ceremony takes place in Jericho, YNet News, 08.15.07.
- Blair: PA economy boost will advance peace, By GREER FAY CASHMAN AND ITAMAR SHARON, jpost.com, Feb 6, 2008.
- Israel to build Egypt border fence, By Herb keinon, Jerusalem Post, 2/6/08.
- Stagnation or Revival ? Israeli Disengagement and Palestinian Economic Prospects, Report by Services Group, USAID and World Bank, at UNISPAL website.
- Israel may ease grip in Tony Blair deal to revive West Bank, The Times May 14, 2008
- Conference page, haaretz.com
- 60th Independence guest list takes shape May 1, 2008 By GREER FAY CASHMAN, jpost.com May 1, 2008.
- Peres looks forward to tomorrow, Greer Fay Cashman and David Horovitz , THE JERUSALEM POST, May 6, 2008.
- Bush and Peres keep up optimism about peace, By Greer Fay CASHMAN, jpost.com May 15, 2008.
- IDF coordinators meet with PA counterparts for first time in a decade, By YAAKOV KATZ Mar 18, 2008, jpost.com.
- World Bank Sees Opportunities for Palestinian Investments, World Bank website. Accessed 2009-09-25.
- Conference website.
- Session notes, Conference website.
- Japanese still solid on PA industry project ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 3, 2008, at jpost.com.
- Encountering Peace: Creating a new reality on the ground, By GERSHON BASKIN, CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, jpost.com August 4, 2008.
- Jpost article on Silvan Shalom announcement, jpost.com, June 28, 2009.
- Water expert: Red-Dead 'pilot' project could be premature, By EHUD ZION WALDOKS, June 28, 2009.
- Jerusalem Post editorial, June 28, 2009
- Dead Sea needs world help to stay alive by Ahmad Khatib, Agence france presse, November 25, 2009.
- Economics, not politics, is the key to peace By Raphael Ahren, Haaretz, November 21, 2008.
- Netanyahu offers new peace vision, Roni Sofer, 11/7/08, Israel News.
- Netanyahu Holds Big Lead in Prime Minister Race Polls, By Leslie Susser, The Jewish Journal, February 2, 2009.
- Blair: We've reached 'moment of truth', By DAVID HOROVITZ, jpost.com, May 10, 2009
- Palestinians Work to Jolt West Bank Back to Life, By Isabel Kershner and Ethan Bronner, NY Times, December 24, 2008.
- Can West Bank improvements hold in 2010?, By Leslie Susser, jta.org, January 11, 2010.
- Building Palestine from the bottom up, by Shlomo Avineri, Welt Online, 5/18/09.
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Project website at Japan foreign ministry
- Industrial Estates in the Palestinian Authority, Peres Center for Peace website
- Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency official website.
- Palestinian Industrial Estates & Free Zones Authority official website.
- Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce
- US Palestinian Partnership Official agency to promote joint partnership and economic development efforts.
- Middle East Investment Initiative Promotes economic development and cooperation, in conjunction with public and private organizations
Media coverage and private sites
- Peace and Prosperity in the West Bank? Can a breakthrough experiment finally bring peace to the West Bank? -- Documentary and article at PBS website, 7/10/09.
- In West Bank, the Economy Offers a Ray of Hope, By Ethan Bronner, November 10, 2009.
- Can West Bank improvements hold in 2010?, By Leslie Susser, jta.org, January 11, 2010.
- Project Video showing a computer generated design
- Blog entry listing new projects Maximizing Progress blog.
- Gertner Architects & Urban Planners master planning for Peace Valley project
News coverage of individual sites and effort
- Joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial park to be built in north, By Haaretz Service, 8/9/08. "A new joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial park will be built next year in the northern Gilboa region. It will cost $200 million and occupy some 350 acres of land, was approved on Monday by a joint Israeli-American committee, and will be built under the auspices of the US ambassador to Israel James Cunningham, the U.S. special envoy to the Mideast General James L. Jones and the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority Keith Dayton."
- Israeli, Palestinian mayors pitch rare joint industrial project, By Gil Shefler, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 1, 2009. "The Jewish mayor of a region in northern Israel adjacent to the West Bank announced a plan with the governor of the West Bank city of Jenin for a joint industrial zone, coexistence projects and a sports league that would bring together the region’s Israeli and Palestinian children."
- Israel-Palestine: third party industrial zones, Bitter Lemons blog website, 5/24/07.
- Town on Israeli-Palestinian border finds a good balance, Inexpensive goods on the West Bank side of Barta’a attract many Israelis for shopping, By Linda Gradstein February 17, 2012. in Barta’a, Israelis and Palestinians mix freely. The town is legally divided, with West Barta’a inside Israel and East Barta’a in the West Bank. But there’s no physical barrier between the two sides, and East Barta’a has developed a thriving market of hundreds of small stores selling everything from coffee sets to sheets to food to special teddy bears for Valentine's Day.
- Palestinians mull 'economic peace' plan, June 2013, BBC. Yolande Knell takes a look at the economic outlook for Palestinians. With talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled, US Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the Middle East with the incentive of a major investment plan for the Palestinians, dependent on progress towards a peace deal. The plan could boost the struggling Palestinian economy, but there are some who fear it could come at the price of their political demands.