An Israeli-Jordanian automotive project is taking a big leap forward. Executives from Renault and Toyota have been speaking to officials from both sides, in an attempt to launch a joint venture for a factory specializing in environmentally-friendly electric cars. According to the plan, the location of this factory would be near the border between Israel and Jordan, in an area called Peace Valley.
Direct discussions between Israel and Jordan were held a week and-a-half ago, at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, which took place May 18-20 on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. They involved high-ranking officials from both sides – King Abdullah of Jordan, Israel's Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Israel's Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai. According to reports, Peres promised tax incentives and government grants to car manufacturers willing to take part in the project.
Informal talks on the same issue, which involved executives from Renault and Toyota, were also held in Davos. Toyota has set high environmental standards in car manufacturing with its Prius hybrid electric-and-gas vehicle, and is now enjoying the returns of that investment with global initiatives such as the Peace Valley car factory.
One of the leading figures in this joint project is Shai Agassi, former chief technology officer of the software giant SAP AG. After quitting SAP earlier this year, Agassi claimed he wishes to concentrate on "green" issues. According to Agassi, Israel should attempt to be independent of oil within 10 years. An electric car industry would be an indispensable step towards achieving such a goal.
Reprinted with permission of The Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute