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Engineering Solutions For Israel

Gary JohnsJune 10, 2024

There are two mega engineering projects for canals that would have significant implications for Israel and the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank. Israel’s Ben Gurion Canal proposal, as an alternative to the Egyptian-controlled Suez Canal, would run from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.


An alternative proposal, by Stephen Games, involves a land swap - Gaza for a southern section of Israel and a canal running from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. I prefer a defensive moat surrounding Gaza to keep Hamas at bay and flood their tunnels. But let’s leave that aside … for the moment.

The Ben-Gurion Canal proposal is to construct a 257 km canal crossing the Negev Desert and the southern end of the Gulf of Aqaba. The canal would originate from the Israeli port city of Eilat on the Red Sea, cross the Jordanian border, flow through the Arabah Valley, enter the Dead Sea, and then head northward around the Gaza Strip before reaching the Mediterranean.


The estimated cost is USD 100 billion. The canal is projected to generate an annual revenue of USD 10 billion. Egypt would not welcome such a venture as it would cut into its earnings for ships traversing the Suez Canal.

The Games’ proposal is for an enlarged and unified Palestinian state that solves the problem of the separation of the West Bank and Gaza by absorbing Gaza into Israel and ceding land to the Palestinians. The land would extend south from the West Bank and run along Israel’s southern border with Jordan.

It would abut the canal flowing north from the Gulf of Aqaba, taking water to the Dead Sea and providing a shipping route to a new port north of the Dead Sea, serving Jericho, Jerusalem, and Amman.

The construction of the canal could employ large numbers of Palestinians and Jordanians. It would create a new economy for Palestine with opportunities for new industries in the coastal zones. Games anticipates the apparent criticisms. The land Israel would cede contains Israel Defence Force bases and mineral reserves and possibly Israel’s nuclear research centre at Dimona. The politics the canal is meant to solve are not good. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2006, would almost certainly take over the new Palestinian state and seek to transport weapons to the heart of Israel. However, Israel would maintain control of the port at Eilat and guard against such activity.

Although Gazans may not want to be relocated, Games’ argument here is telling. Palestinians and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) argue there are no ‘Gazans’—the population of Gaza is made up primarily of ‘refugees’ housed in camps and imprisoned by Israel. ‘Which is it? Home or prison? It cannot be that Gaza is sometimes the Gazans’ home and sometimes not, according to which definition they find more expedient.’

Gazans could be freed to new lands in the south of Israel. A canal from Eilat to Ein Bokek would create possibilities for the West Bank’s landlocked Palestinians, providing them with a waterway leading to the Red Sea and then north via the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean and south to the Indian Ocean. It would be possible to combine both canals, the Ben Gurion branching from the Games canal, as they take the same course for part of the journey.

Whether engineering can change a people is the question. The Arabs in the region have been fighting Jews for a very long time. The pre-Zionist group, the Jewish Yishuv operating in the British Mandate of Palestine, had been working toward a state since the 1860s. The years 1860-1948 have been characterised as a civil war between Arabs and Jews. When Israel was established, local infighting turned into national attacks on Israel by all neighbouring countries, with major wars in 1947-49, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. Since then, the Intifadas and, of course, the horrific attack of October 7, 2023.

On the plus side, the Abraham Accord of 2020 saw Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain sign a peace deal. Morocco, Sudan, and other countries have commenced talks, all in the shadow of fear of Iran and seeking an ally in Israel. There is a strong suggestion that the October 7 slaughter was designed to forestall an Israel-Saudi Arabia agreement.

Among these more positive political moves, engineering holds out the possibility the Palestinian population has a real economic future rather than the UNRWA burden of welfare.

Gary Johns is chair of Close the Gap Research

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