India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor to change the face of the Middle East: Israel PM

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the launch of the ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as “major news” for Israelis and said it was the “largest cooperation project in our history” that would impact the Middle East, Israel, and the entire globe.

The controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from China was replaced by the new economic corridor, which was jointly unveiled on Saturday by leaders from the US, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union in New Delhi.

Netanyahu said that Israel is the centre of a ground-breaking worldwide project that will connect infrastructure from Asia to Europe in a late-Saturday night video address.

“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.

His statements came as tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated against the government’s proposed judicial reform, which they believe will weaken the independence 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 announced.

“This vision starts in India, passes through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel before reaching Europe.”

The programme is viewed as a potential substitute for the BRI, a large-scale project started by Chinese President Xi Jinping that has also received criticism over its debt sustainability, particularly from smaller countries.

In order to connect China, the world’s largest manufacturer, with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf area, Africa, and Europe through a network of land and sea links, Xi introduced the BRI in 2013.

The IMEC’s declaration coincides with discussions about the rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Although there are no diplomatic ties between the two nations, the Gulf state has recently been viewed to soften its stance towards Israel by allowing Israeli airlines to use its airspace.

In order to normalise relations with the Jewish state, it is assumed to have required various concessions from the United States, some of which were challenging.

According to the Israeli Prime Minister, they declared the beginning of a ground-breaking project to create an economic route from India via the Middle East and into Europe. He mentioned that he was happy to let Israeli citizens know that the State of Israel will serve as a major intersection for this economic corridor.

As he battled an economic slowdown in the face of his divisive proposals for judicial reform, 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.”

“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 added.

According to him, the initiative changes the look of the area and makes a dream possible. The programme calls for the building of trains, a hydrogen pipelines, fibre optic communications lines, electrical cables, and additional infrastructure.

He mentioned that the State of Israel will offer all of its skills, knowledge, drive, and dedication to the realisation of the biggest cooperative endeavour in its history. All government ministries would be given the green signal to collaborate in making this ambition a reality, he added.

In order for this vision to materialise as fast as possible, Netanyahu stated, “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.”

The undertaking will usher in a brand-new and exceptional period of international and regional cooperation and involvement.

Netanyahu said, “Together we will succeed.”

With thousands of demonstrators showing out every weekend for the past 36 weeks, Israel has been threatened with mass emigration, resignations from high-ranking posts in the military, army desertions, strikes, and capital flight, all of which are supported by ominous forecasts from respected international credit rating organisations.

In the face of many, an irate protest, Netanyahu has been working hard to demonstrate that everything is under control and the economy is stable. While visiting Greece and Cyprus earlier this week, he made hints about the important link project in an effort to inspire his people and supporters.

(With inputs from PTI)