A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden launched the ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it the "largest cooperation project in our history" that would benefit the entire world.
Israel is one of the members of IMEC and is central to its implementation. The IMEC would involve a network of railways and shipping networks to connect India and Europe through the Middle East.
Besides the United States, India, and Israel, the other members of the IMEC are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, European Union (EU), and Jordan. Besides connecting the two parts of the world, the IMEC is also being seen as a step towards normalising the Middle East that has for decades been defined by opposition of Arab countries to Israel. The coming together of Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of whom are looking forward to normalising the bilateral relationship with US mediation, is step towards furhter integrating the region.
In a video message released late Saturday evening, Netanyahu said that Israel is at the focus of an unprecedented international project that will link infrastructure from Asia to Europe, reported PTI.
Netanyahu said, "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. A good week to you, citizens of Israel. This evening, I am pleased to inform you (of) some major news. 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. "This vision starts in India, passes through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel before reaching Europe."
The IMEC is further being seen as a step toward countering the Chinese influence in the world, which has reached out to several countries through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through which it has built a series of road, rail, and shipping projects, several of which are under criticism for putting host developing countries into debt crises and creating 'white elephants'.
The IMEC will be comprised of two separate corridors: an eastern corridor connecting India with the Middle East and a northern corridor connecting Middle East further with Europe.
Netanyahu's message came as hundreds of thousands of Israelis protested on the streets against the government's judicial overhaul plan that has been slammed for weakening the country's judiciary, strengthening the executive branch of the government, and paving way for religious authoritarianism that could threaten the liberal way of life in the country.
Netanyahu termed IMEC a "pioneering initiative" and said Israel will be at the "central junction" of the project.
He 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."
The IMEC reshapes the face of our region and allows a dream to become reality, said Netanyahu, as per PTI.
The initiative includes the construction of railways, the laying of a hydrogen pipeline, the energy of the future, the laying of fibre optic communications cables, the laying of electricity cables and more infrastructure, said Netanyahu, as per PTI.
He further said, "The State of Israel will contribute its capabilities, all of its experience, momentum and commitment, to realise the largest cooperation project in our history. All government ministries will be instructed to join in realizing this dream. 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 in order for this vision to become reality as soon as possible."
"Together we will succeed," Netanyahu further asserted.
For much of this year, Israel has been torn over the judicial overhaul and Netanyahu has struggled to show that everything is in control of the country.
"With protesters turning up in hundreds of thousands every weekend for the last 36 weeks, Israel faces threats of mass emigration, resignations in critical positions, army desertions, strikes and flight of capital backed by gloomy predictions from prestigious global credit rating agencies," reported PTI.