'Peace Valley' launch cancelled

Jordanian opposition apparently scuttled plan.

dead sea 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dead sea 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The joint launch of the 'Peace Valley' project by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Shimon Peres was cancelled on Monday at nearly the last minute. According to Peres's office, the Jordanians had cooled on the idea and had told the French they were not interested because of the 'situation.' No response from the Jordanian government was available Monday night. There had been speculation that Jordan's King Abdullah was displeased that Peres had taken the limelight concerning a project he had pushed for very hard in recent years. The initial modest conduit idea would have provided much needed desalinated water to Amman. Yitzhak Tshuva presented the Peace Valley vision at the President's Conference. His vision, by comparison, calls for turning the Arava valley into a Las Vegas/Dubai-type resort of casinos, skyscrapers, and artificial lakes in the desert along the route of an open canal. The president's office also said there had been no need for an actual tour of the area after Peres briefed Sarkozy on Sunday night. Environmental groups praised the cancellation. "We praise the cancellation of the cornerstone-laying ceremony and reiterate that they must go towards examining the options. If President Peres decided to check first and then act, then we praise him. "We have to examine closely how to utilize the African Rift Valley in an environmentally friendly way. For example, rehabilitating the Jordan River would allow everyone to touch the water: Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians. That could really generate peace," Raanan Boral, coalition coordinator for five environmental groups who have banded together on this issue, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. Those five groups also launched a public campaign Sunday calling on Peres not to initiate the project before all the environmental studies were complete. The World Bank has just begun a feasibility study which could take as long as two years to complete. The coalition - comprised of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), Friends of the Earth Middle East, Tzalul, The Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Green Course, and Life and Environment - have sent a power point presentation detailing the problems to all their activists and posted it on the SPNI site as well. In addition, they have begun to circulate a petition calling on Peres to slow down the whole process and not to give in to "real estate concerns." As of Monday afternoon, 1,900 people had signed it.