The Ben Gurion Project and Its Relation to Israel’s Occupation in Gaza

If this project is successfully built, the potential of this canal will be very high, competing with the Suez Canal.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has become increasingly heated since the alleged Hamas attack began on October 7, 2023. Since then, Israel has not stopped attacking Palestine and has killed the lives of 13,000 people, with more than 5,500 children and 3,500 women. There is much speculation that Hamas was not the mastermind behind the October 7 attacks, and many hospitals were attacked with suspicions that Hamas members were hiding in secret tunnels located in many health institutions. Israel uses children and women as weapons to attack on the grounds that this can draw Hamas members out of hiding. Residents were killed, bombs were dropped, the remains of buildings were leveled with bulldozers and many bodies were left to be crushed. Israel’s atrocities are beyond the pale and violate many international rules of war. With support from the United States as one of the countries with the strongest hegemony, Israel continues to reject many suggestions for a ceasefire from UN members, and ignores various threats of boycott sanctions.

Israelis Motive behind the attacks on Gaza

Many allegations are focused on the Israeli attack on Gaza and this is certainly bigger than just revenge for the alleged Hamas attack. One of them is Israel’s motivation in launching their long-term project, namely The Ben Gurion Project. This project is a long-planned canal construction project from the 1960s, initiated by David Ben-Gurion. If this project is successfully built, the potential of this canal will be very high, competing with the Suez Canal. As we know, the Suez Canal is the main canal connecting the continents of Europe and Asia, in charge of most all export transportation in and out between the two continents. The Suez Canal is owned by Egypt, and it was set up by the Egyptian government to replace the Suez Canal Company in the 1950s. With very large income, namely annual revenue of 9.4 billion U.S. dollars in the fiscal year 2022-2023, up from 7 billion U.S. dollars a year earlier, as quoted by the Suez Canal Authority’s (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie, certainly really motivated Israel to build a canal project that could compete with the Suez Canal.

The Ben Gurion Canal Project

The idea of The Ben Gurion Canal Project has been around for a long time, but it emerged again in the Abrahamic Accords between Israel and Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain, UAE. On April 2, 2021, Israel stated that they would start this project in June 2021. This of course has not been successfully implemented and the existence of the Gaza Strip could be one of the main reasons. This project stretches from the Gulf of Aqaba close to the Israeli-Jordanian border and stretches through the Arabah Valley located between the Negev Mountains and the Jordanian highlands. This route then continues west and north, passing the Gaza Strip which then flows into the Mediterranean Sea. According to several sources, the final port of the Ben Gurion project will end in Gaza. Of course, many parties speculate about the connection between the construction of this project and the IDF attack on Gaza. If Gaza is leveled and all the Palestinian people have been allocated, then the construction of this project will save more costs and shorten the route. The thing that hinders the progress of this project is the rejection of many Arab countries. The idea of eliminating the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip, one of the most populated region to launch this project certainly violates all existing humanitarian rules.

Israel’s attack on Gaza also received support from the United States and several countries in Europe because the existing Suez Canal had several weaknesses. In March 2021, there was a blockade involving the container ship, Ever Given. This container was trapped due to strong gusts of wind, blocking and slowing down trade. The blockade did not last long but was able to make around 360 ships wait so that many parties suffered losses of almost 9.6 billion dollars. Of course, this disaster made the US and many strong nations to build an alternative to the Suez Canal, which was able to facilitate trade between the two continents without any slowdown. From this, it can be seen that Western countries want to reduce their dependence on Egypt, which has full authority over the Suez Canal, so they support Israel in launching attacks on Gaza to facilitate The Ben Gurion Project.

The China Silk Road and BRICS

Not only that, Egypt as a country that holds full authority over the Suez Canal has strong cooperative relations with Russia. Income from Egyptian exports to Russia reached 590 billion dollars and imports reached 4.1 billion dollars. With increasingly strengthening economic cooperation, Egypt will officially join BRICS in early 2024. This of course worries western countries because of the potential for de-dollarization and potential rival of World Bank. Western countries are afraid that BRICS will have control over world trade. Apart from Russia, Egypt also has strong relations with China. In 2014, Egypt and China signed a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” which is believed to advance their cooperation in the military, economic and trade fields. This collaboration continues with a large amount of investment coming into Egypt from China, thus potentially strengthening support for the development of the mega project, China Silk Road. This is of course increasingly worrying for the United States and European countries. They are worried with the growing strong relations between Egypt, Russia and China will collapse Western’s economic and trade conditions, making them to continue supporting Israel’s occupation towards the Gaza Strip in order to smoothen the potential of The Ben Gurion Canal Project.

Sekarsari Sugihartono
Sekarsari Sugihartono
I am an international relations master's student at Gadjah Mada University. My interests are SDGs and International Trade Dispute.