While their stated goal of eradicating the terrorists who brutally massacred more than a thousand Israelis and took hundreds of people hostage may have seemed reasonable initially, it quickly became apparent that they cannot meet this goal without causing undue harm to civilians. So why are they continuing? There is some speculation that their interest in building an alternative to the Suez Canal might be an underlying motivation.
Israel has been discussing plans to build a Suez Canal rival with the U.S. since the 1960s. The Suez Canal is a very lucrative trade route for Egypt, and with 20 percent of all world trade currently passing through it, there is a big opportunity there – especially when you consider the fact that many Western nations would prefer not to depend on Egypt for world trade given its close ties to Russia.
The proposed Israeli canal, which was dubbed the Ben Gurion Canal Project, would start near the port city of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba close to the Israel-Jordan border and flow through the Arabah Valley and the Dead Sea before then moving north around the Gaza Strip to ultimately connect the Gulf of Aqaba with the Mediterranean Sea. Cutting through the Gaza Strip would be a more direct route.
According to declassified documents from July of 1963, the U.S. Department of Energy helped create a plan to detonate hundreds of nuclear explosions under the ground of the Negev Desert to make the canal possible. The document noted: “Such a canal would be a strategically valuable alternate to the present Suez Canal and would probably contribute greatly to the economic development of the surrounding area.”
While 130 miles of the proposed 160-mile canal were situated in what was then “virtually unpopulated desert wasteland,” the main obstacle to the plan would be relocating people living in the Gaza Strip. The document points out: “Another problem which has not been considered is that of political feasibility, as it is likely that the Arab countries surrounding Israel would object strongly to the construction of such a canal.”
If the new canal does proceed, it will be about a third longer than the Suez Canal but could handle more traffic. The parties that control the canal will have an outsized influence on the global supply routes of grain, oil and shipping. With Gaza out of the way, the canal could be created with ease and diversions would not be needed.
There’s also, not surprisingly, a lot of money at stake. The Suez Canal recently set a new record for annual revenue of $9.4 billion for Egypt, and the new canal would be designed to be more efficient and accommodate a higher volume of ships thanks to its hardier terrain than the Suez Canal’s sand. It would also allow two-way traffic, meaning ships could pass in both directions at the same time.
The canal would position Israel as a key player in global maritime commerce, and some believe that it would be in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s best interests to pursue it as he faces dwindling public support in Israel. The fact that Egypt – and by extension, Russia – would exert far less control over world trade makes it an attractive prospect to many other countries as well. What is happening in Gaza is so hard for many of us to comprehend, but when you follow the money, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to the story.
Sources for this article include: