cedar tree 88.
(photo credit: )
Israel plans to initiate the planting of four million olive trees on its dryland borders with Jordan and Egypt, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Shalom Simhon announced on Monday.
Simhon said he hoped to go forward with the project, which is in its preliminary stages, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and Israel's Arab neighbors, and with the help of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael).
He said the idea could gain international support and funding as a "peace project," but it would also have economic and environmental benefits.
"We would like to take advantage of the worldwide shortage in olive oil to create this project," Simhon said at a Jerusalem conference on combatting desertification. "Without a doubt, I expect this to be an impressive project with our neighbors."
JNF World Chairman Effi Stenzler said his organization would accept the invitation to participate in the project.
"Together, we will do it very well," Stenzler said, adding that the JNF has worked with Vice-Premier Shimon Peres and Simhon on creating the concept of the project as a peace initiative. The JNF said it planned to start the project by providing one million olive tree saplings.
A spokesperson for Simhon said the plan was in its initial stages and nothing has been set yet, including where to plant the trees. Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority had not yet agreed to sign on to the project, he said.
Simhon said the project would utilize state-of-the-art techniques to grow the trees, and would draw from Israel's successes in growing olive trees in the Negev and throughout Israel.
The announcement was made in front of representatives from arid regions all over the globe participating in Forests to Combat Desertification, a Jerusalem conference to share ideas and innovations on how to prevent and reverse land degradation in drylands.