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New Chinese-Israeli project threatens Suez Canal

February 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

The Israeli Transport Minister has visited Beijing on a number of occasions to agree the terms of a new Chinese-Israeli railway project, however, Cairo has written a letter of protest.

According to Israeli media reports, Egypt has rejected a joint Israeli-Chinese project to build a railway to transport goods from Tel Aviv to Eilat because it poses a threat to the Suez Canal, the waterway that Egypt depends upon as one of the most important sources of its national income.

The Israeli newspaper, Globes, published pictures of the new train project and details regarding speed as well as the difference between it and the other Israeli railways.

The newspaper explained that in the wake of several visits to Beijing by the Israeli Transport Minister, Yisrael Katz, he was persuaded that the Chinese could complete the project at a rapid pace and at low cost if Israel decided to bear a large part of the cost. It pointed out that train, which will connect the port of Eilat with other ports such as Ashdod and Haifa, will be like a land bridge and will constitute an alternative trade route to Egypt’s Suez Canal.

Globes reported that according to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, this line will change Israel into a strategic asset for China. However the project will also raise complex problems, foremost of which is Egypt, which does not share with Netanyahu’s enthusiasm about the project. Particularly given that it threatens an important source of Egyptian income at a time when the Egyptian economy is struggling against the possibility of collapse.

Globes reported that “the day after Katz returned from China, the Egyptians sent a sharp message to the Chinese regarding their opposition to such a project.”

“The Egyptians also have other ways of harming the project without being drawn into an open conflict with Israel. With talk of Al Qaida gangs in the Sinai, it wouldn’t be hard to persuade a gang of Bedouin to hurt a trade route with a 200 kilometre length off the eastern coast of the peninsular,” Globes added.

It called on the Israeli prime minister to abandon the project due to the political and economic risks and disadvantages that it may cause.