Welcoming the announcement of the ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described it as the “largest cooperation project in our history” that will “change the face of the Middle East, Israel, and will affect the entire world”.
The new economic corridor, which many see as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, was jointly announced on Saturday by the leaders of the US, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
In a video message released late Saturday evening, Netanyahu said that Israel is at the focus of an unprecedented international project that will link infrastructure from Asia to Europe.
“I welcome the statement that was released today by the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the European Union, as well as France, Italy and Germany,” Netanyahu said. “A good week to you, citizens of Israel. This evening, I am pleased to inform you (of) some major news,” the Israeli Prime Minister said.
His message came as hundreds of thousands of Israelis protested on the streets against the government’s judicial overhaul plan they think will undermine the authority of the judiciary.
“Israel is at the focus of an unprecedented international project that will link infrastructure from Asia to Europe. This link will also realise a multi-year vision that will change the face of the Middle East, and Israel, and will affect the entire world,” he said.
“This vision starts in India, passes through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel before reaching Europe,” Netanyahu said. The announcement of the ambitious project comes amid discussions around the normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The two countries do not have diplomatic relations but the Gulf kingdom has been seen to be recently softening its position towards Israel by allowing Israeli airlines to use its air space.
It is said to have also demanded, as per media reports, several concessions from the United States for the normalisation of ties to happen with the Jewish state, some very contentious ones.
“They announced the launch of a pioneering initiative to develop an economic corridor from India, through the Middle East, to Europe. I am pleased to inform you, citizens of Israel, that our country, the State of Israel, will be a central junction in this economic corridor,” Netanyahu said.
“Our railways and ports will open a new gateway from India, through the Middle East, to Europe, and back – from Europe to India via Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” the Israeli Prime Minister, battling a downturn in the economy in the face of his controversial Judicial overhaul plans, said.
“I would like to thank US President (Joe) Biden and his administration for the major effort that has led us to today’s historic announcement. Several months ago, the US contacted us regarding the realisation of this historic opportunity. Since then, it has held urgent diplomatic contacts in order to bring about today’s breakthrough,” he stressed. The project reshapes the face of our region and allows a dream to become reality, he said.
The initiative includes the construction of railways, the laying of a hydrogen pipeline, the energy of the future, the laying of fibre optic communications cables, the laying of electricity cables and more infrastructure, the Israeli Prime Minister noted.
“The State of Israel will contribute its capabilities, all of its experience, momentum and commitment, to realise the largest cooperation project in our history. All government ministries will be instructed to join in realizing this dream,” he emphasised.
“I have directed the National Security Council, in the Prime Minister’s Office, to coordinate the staff work and also the close cooperation with the US and other countries in order for this vision to become reality as soon as possible,” Netanyahu said.
The project will lead us to a new, unique and unprecedented era of global and regional cooperation and involvement. “Together we will succeed,” Netanyahu asserted.
With protesters turning up in hundreds of thousands every weekend for the last 36 weeks, Israel faces threats of mass emigration, resignations in critical positions, army desertions, strikes and flight of capital backed by gloomy predictions from prestigious global credit rating agencies.
Netanyahu has been struggling to show that everything is under control and the economy is stable amid widespread angry protests. He also hinted at the major link project during his trip to Greece and Cyprus early this week to boost the morale of his citizens and supporters.
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