Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who is on an official visit in Washington, met with World Bank President Robert Zoellick Friday and was assured of the World Bank's support of the Dead Sea Canal project's pilot program.
The Dead Sea Canal project is meant to be a joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian Authority venture. It proposes a 112-mile pipeline be built between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, in order to pump some 200 million cubic meters of water both to the Dead Sea and to use in various desalination projects.
Later in the project a large desalination plant is to be built, for all threes use.
Minister Shalom reportedly met in secret with a high ranking Jordanian official several weeks ago, in order to finalize the project. During Shalom's meeting with Zoellick, it was decided to begin the project's pilot program, according to the guidelines set by Dr. Uri Shani, head of the inter-ministerial steering committee task with the project.
"This is dramatic, important move that can lead to a breakthrough on the project," Minister Shalom told Ynet. "This project has been delayed for years. We see it as a staple for financial peace."
The Dead Sea (Archives)
The pilot will first examine the environmental impact the project may carry, as 200 million cubic meters of water out of the Red Sea, 100 of which to be pumped into the Dead Sea, whose water levels have been steadily declining, and 100 to be funneled to desalination projects.
The pilot program will test the Red Sea waters' affect on the Dead Sea in order to see if the claim made by various environmental group, saying such a move would be detrimental, has any merit.
Multi-billion dollar ventureThe World Bank has agreed to finance a feasibility survey for the project, to be completed between 2010 and 2011.
The Dead Sea Canal project has been mulled over by the Israeli governments over the past few decades. One of the options also being explored is connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea, via the future pipeline.
The multi-billion dollar project will be partially funded by the international community, as well as by Israel and Jordan. The Palestinian Authority is meant to use funds donated to it for this purpose.
Both minister Shalom and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said that the project is imperative for the advancement of the region's financial peace, needed as part of the effort to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have all been plagued with a severe water shortage over the past few decades. The project is also expected to sprout various Israeli-Jordanian tourist and agricultural projects.
According to Dr. Shani's outline, once the project is completed, the pipeline should see 1.8 billion cubic meters of water pumped through it, 800 million of which are to be desalinated and split between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. One billion cubic meters of water are to be pumped into the Dead Sea.
Jordan has formed a company to oversee its part of the project and the Ministry of Regional Development is overseeing the Israeli part. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has named a special team for the matter, on behalf of the PA.