Peace – Economic and Human Development
in the Middle East

A Message from Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy
MiddleEast/North Africa Economic Summit
Cairo, November 1996
An Israeli Outlook

Peace in the Middle East, our shared goal, is far more than an abstract concept. It is a reality which must be built by the vision and intensive effort of all of us. Academic deliberations must be translated into concrete cooperative measures which will transform our region from one of violence and hostility to one of development and prosperity. The potential economic benefits are immense. On the one hand, development of a regional infrastructure will stimulate greater cooperation and open up tremendous opportunities for improving the social and economic well-being of the people of the region. On the other hand, the reduction of tensions and greater regional security can free resources, previously earmarked for military spending, allowing them to be redirected to peaceful and productive ends.

The Government of Israel continues to be actively engaged in joint ventures, studies, committees and collaborative projects designed to advance these goals. This involvement reflects the commitment we have made to peace.

The Middle East is not only an economic market, however. It is also a tapestry of diverse peoples and a meeting place of cultures and religions. By moving closer to one another, combining our will and ingenuity, we may build together creative societies capable of generating cultural, spiritual and material wealth for our peoples.

In searching for our common way, it is natural that disagreements should arise. However, development and economic growth require stability and a positive environment free of the dramas of conflict and dispute. All parties in the Middle East must work towards this goal.

The welfare of the people in the region can best be advanced by massive infrastructure development, encouraging free enterprise, and establishing joint ventures. These initiatives must be based on private sector investment and leadership, underpinned by governmental support from the regional parties and donor nations. The development we seek – economic and otherwise – must be made sustainable in our regional context. Thus, bridges must be built – across borders, across cultures – for goodwill and understanding.

This requires a broad-based approach to development, integrating investment in real assets as well as in training and education, so that the peoples of the region can work together. Greater contacts between the peoples are needed, alongside investments in human resources, education and training programs, in order to establish mutual confidence and to develop a pool of competent managers and leaders for the coming generations. The Middle East of tomorrow will require investments not only in industry and infrastructure but also in people, based on a coherent, workable vision of our shared objectives. All avenues that offer hope should be explored.

Political negotiations must be reinforced by the involvement of experts and professionals skilled in applying practical solutions. A new way must be found to cooperate, to raise the funds needed to realize the many projects that have been initiated and to build broad patterns of development. There is no alternative to collaboration, to partnership, to confronting and resolving our real problems.

We must not promise, however, what we cannot deliver. Promises must be matched by the benefits that our people perceive and obtain in their own lives. There is much appeal to grandiose visions, but it is also possible that the large scale of some development projects may jeopardize their potential realization. It is therefore necessary to accompany the major, long-term projects envisaged by the regional parties with an approach based on implementing large numbers of small projects, each of which has a reasonable chance of success in the near future. In this way economic and industrial development in the Middle East can proceed in a way which will provide ongoing and ever-growing tangible benefits to our societies.

It is our purpose at the Cairo Economic Summit to augment the potential, the options and avenues for economic cooperation and integration in the region, while at the same time providing ways for the people of the region to see and sense what this potential is. The strategic opportunities for development are far broader than the proposed range of projects and programs may suggest, but we must ensure that we set for ourselves feasible and attainable goals. The long-term, positive impact of such an approach will be profound.

While obstacles to economic integration and development exist, it is important to recognize the great benefits our achievements in this area will have for the region. The resources we invest now are a critical component of the effort to build a lasting peace for the Middle East.

David Levy
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
November 1996

The Multilateral Track

The process of normalization among the peoples of the Middle East is an integral part of the peace process and a crucial element in its existence. In the past few years, as progress has been made on the Israel-Jordan and Israel-Palestinian bilateral tracks, modalities of cooperation among all peoples of the region have taken shape. Consequently, innumerable possibilities for the sides to become acquainted with each other, eliminate stereotypes that have persisted since time immemorial, and further the vital interests of all sides, have come into being.

One of the settings in which regional cooperation has become a reality is the multilateral track, which has acquired a respectable role in the normalization process. The multilateral process has given practical, tangible expression to shared interests.

In many regards, cooperation has proved cardinal in combatting problems that afflict the entire region, including poverty, the water shortage, and the arms race.

Within the multilateral framework, experts, academicians, business people, and government officials on all levels have held hundreds of meetings in the past few years. These encounters have not only created personal acquaintanceships and social rapprochement but resulted in the formation of an infrastructure for regional cooperation in many respects.

The multilateral process signifies a trend of change that may be expressed in the main as a transition from headlines and grand designs to the formation of an infrastructure for the implementation of practical plans. The Middle East economy will leap forward into a different future when the tremendous potential of the activity on the multilateral track and the infrastructure that this activity has laid for multi-sided regional cooperation comes to fruition.

The activity of the Economic Group has led, among other things, to the formation of institutions such as the regional bank, the permanent secretariat of the Group (which functions as a regional economic entity inwhich representatives of the sides participate), the regional business council, and the tourism organization. The activities of the working group on development of Middle East water resources has resulted in important understandings among the sides, which have worked out a mutually agreed declaration of principles on the development of new water resources in the region. A comprehensive study, about to be concluded, aims to determine the extent of regional water shortfall through the year 2040 and propose ways to overcome it. A regional center for desalination research has been established in Muscat, Oman, at an investment of millions of dollars. More than $40 million in projects are already under way.

Many additional topics, pertaining to all areas of life, are being dealt with on the multilateral track. Because there is no room to list them all, we mention only several projects: war on desertification, formation of a regional cancer research center, use of hazardous pesticides, cooperation in the war on water pollution, coordination in artificial rain enhancement, and greenhouse horticulture.

Summing up, the multilateral negotiations are focusing the attention of more than fifty states and international organizations on the Middle East, the peoples living there, and their shared desire to better their lives for the sake of future generations. The fact that the projects carried out within the multilateral framework have continued even at times of political crisis proves that the track has been successful and indispensable.

Israel’s International Development Program

Israel’s efforts to cooperate in alleviating hunger, poverty, gender discrimination in the development process, and the deterioration of the earth’s natural resources, are the product of more than 40 years of research and experience. Established in 1958, MASHAV – Israel’s International Development Cooperation Program within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – is committed to cooperating with the international community facing similar development challenges.

MASHAV is presently working with 141 countries, authorities and international agencies to promote technical cooperation programs. The Middle East peace process presents an unprecedented opportunity to begin the progression towards regional development cooperation in the Middle East/North Africa region.

Ongoing projects in the region include:

  • A trilateral Agreement between the Government of Denmark, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel on an Agricultural Training Program. Over a thousand Egyptian professionals have participated in this program.
  • A joint Egyptian-Israeli Agricultural Demonstration Farm in the Nubaseed Area in Egypt.
  • A quadrilateral Agreement between the United States, the Government of Turkey and the State of Israel for Cooperation in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Within the framework of cooperation between the Government of Holland, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, two research projects are being conducted on:

  • Studies on Palestinian Multi-Lingualism and Language Policy
  • Education for International Cooperation: Water Management

Project Proposals for the region include a Joint Development Program between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel for Collaborative Agricultural and Rural Development of Settlement in the Nubariya Region, Egypt. The project seeks to promote the reclamation of vast desert areas for agricultural purposes, thereby enhancing regional integration. It will involve the private sector in both countries to assure sustainable economic growth, and program implementation will emphasize agri-technology, business administration, community planning, small business development training, and more.

Programs for Regional Cooperation 1997 A publication, entitled Programs for Regional Cooperation, 1997 will be presented by the Israeli delegation to the Cairo Summit in November 1996. This publication outlines some of the many possible projects for collaborative development in the Middle East.

Peace and Regional Development

From the outset of the peace process in the early 1990s, there has been broad recognition that peace in the Middle East will be effective only if accompanied by regional economic cooperation. This linkage between peace and economics is vital; it represents a unique opportunity for the regional parties to participate in a sum-plus game. Not only does it enhance the ability to promote national aspirations and generate sustainable development, but it enables the region as a whole to claim its rightful position as a major crossroads in the emerging global economy.

Since the convening of the first Economic Summit in Casablanca two years ago, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have been engaged in an on-going process of identifying, articulating, screening, selecting and planning collaborative projects for regional development. With the assistance of numerous foreign and international institutions, new regional organizations have been established, which have acted not only as a sounding board for the introduction of new ideas, but as a permanent facilitator for their formulation into well-defined project proposals for implementation.

Sub-regions for Collaborative Development

Within the framework of regional economic cooperation, three sub-regions have been identified: the South-East Mediterranean, the Northern Gulf of Aqaba and the Jordan Rift Valley.

  • Development projects in the South-East Mediterranean, defined roughly as extending from Ashkelon to El Arish, involve bi- and trilateral collaboration between Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Some of these projects have been formulated within the framework of the SEMED Steering Committee, initiated by the European Union.
  • Projects in the Northern Gulf region involve collaboration between Egypt, Israel and Jordan. Integrated development of the Taba-Aqaba-Eilat area has been facilitated by the TEAM-Area Steering Committee, which has put together a portfolio of selected project proposals, particularly for the tourism sector.
  • Projects in the Jordan Rift Valley, extending roughly from the Red Sea to the Sea of Galilee, include cooperative ventures between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. A Master Plan for the Integrative Development of the JRV is being articulated under the aegis of the JRV Steering Committee, which has been initiated with the aid of the United States.

This publication focuses on development options proposed for these three sub-regions. This selection of proposals does not constitute the sum total of possible collaborative projects, or even the subset of projects which are currently being planned and implemented in the region. It is, however, indicative of the comprehensive, integrative and consensual nature of the regional development planning that has been taking shape since the Casablanca Economic Summit. The proposed projects span the various productive and service sectors including: infrastructure, industry, agriculture, tourism, human resource development, R&D and technology transfer. Emphasis is placed on integrative sustainable development which encompasses, inter alia, environmental considerations and constraints. The selection process and elaboration of potential options has been guided by the desire to promote projects in which the particular interests of the parties involved converge, hence creating a framework for synergy rather than competition.

Some of the projects are the product of the deliberations of the specific multi-lateral working groups established to promote sub-regional development: SEMED, TEAM-Area and the JRV Steering Committee. Others have been initiated or articulated by one or more of the parties within a more general framework of national policies as well as bi- and multi-lateral initiatives to promote regional integration.

Selected Development Options

Programs for Regional Cooperation outlines more than 130 development options for the three sub-regions; the total financial scope of these projects exceeds $12.5 billion. These projects include:

South-East Mediterranean

  • Rehabilitation and upgrading of water systems in Gaza: including a proposal for wide-scale waste-water treatment and reclamation and a proposal to construct a seawater desalination plant;
  • Electricity interconnections between Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel;
  • A natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority;
  • A coastal railway between Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel;
  • Submarine fiber optic cable near the Mediterranean shore;
  • Collaborative development of tourism in the SEMED region, including a proposal for the development of an East Mediterranean Riviera;
  • Gaza Industrial Estate at the Karni crossing;
  • Demonstration farm at Beit Hanoun;
  • Development of commercial aquaculture;
  • Technical education and vocational training network;
  • Integrated coastal management;
  • Sand dune preservation;
  • Establishment of greenbelts along the Mediterranean coast.

The Northern Gulf of Aqaba

  • Joint sewage treatment plant for Aqaba/Eilat;
  • Seawater desalination plant;
  • Interconnection of electricity grids between Eilat, Aqaba and southern Sinai;
  • Shared power plant;
  • Taba-Ein Netafim-Aqaba road;
  • Development of international airports including a joint Israeli/Jordanian Wadi Araba/Arava International Airport;
  • Red Sea submarine fiber optic cable;
  • Red Sea Riviera;
  • TEAM-Area tourism projects including visitors’ management program, development of the Old City in Aqaba and a common marketing program;
  • Development of logistic capacity in the northern Gulf of Aqaba;
  • Cooperation in aquaculture research and development;
  • Gulf of Aqaba Environmental Action Plan;
  • Upper Gulf of Aqaba oil spill contingency project;
  • Gulf of Aqaba transnational coral reef park.

The Jordan Rift Valley

  • Joint water conservation and management projects;
  • Interconnection between the Israeli and Jordanian electricity networks;
  • Improvement of bridges across the Jordan River;
  • Railway connection between Haifa and Mafraq;
  • JRV telecommunications superhighway;
  • Red Sea – Dead Sea Canal;
  • Beit Shean Valley/Pella tourism project;
  • Development of tourism in the Jericho region;
  • The Jordan Valley Industrial Free Zone;
  • Israeli-Jordanian pilot farms for technology transfer;
  • Joint Israeli-Jordanian technical education program;
  • Restoration of the Jordan River;
  • Trans-border nature reserve in the Arava/Wadi Araba (D’ana and Sheizaf Reserves and Rahma-Gharandal sand dunes);
  • Trilateral anti-desertification program in the Jordan Rift Valley sub-region;
  • The Dead Sea "Lowest Park on Earth".