(JNS) The Biden administration announced what it called a “landmark” economic corridor between India, the Middle East and Europe at the G20 summit in New Delhi on Sept. 9.
The corridor will “stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration across two continents, thus unlocking sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” Washington stated. “We aim to usher in a new era of connectivity with a railway, linked through ports connecting Europe, the Middle East and Asia.”
The White House’s 245-word fact sheet does not mention Israel at all, and Jerusalem apparently is not a signatory to the accompanying Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Saudi, European Union, India, Emirati, French, German, Italian and American governments.
The 325-word memorandum mentions Israel once, acknowledging that the two corridors will enable “goods and services to transit to, from, and between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Europe.”
During the U.S. State Department press briefing on Sept. 11, Matthew Miller, the department spokesman, was asked if the agreement was part of normalization efforts between Riyadh and Jerusalem. “No, it is separate from,” he said. “It is separate.”
On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a very different story to tell about what he said was a “unique and unprecedented era of global and regional cooperation.”
“The State of Israel will be a central junction in this economic corridor. 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 United Arab Emirates,” he stated.
“This link will also realize a multi-year vision that will change the face of the Middle East and Israel, and will affect the entire world,” added the prime minister. “Its vision reshapes the face of our region and allows a dream to become reality.”
‘Node between Europe and the Middle East’
Israel is “the node” between Europe and the Middle East, according to Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in Iran, Turkey and the Middle East.
“Items shipped across the Arabian Peninsula by rail are loaded onto cargo ships in Haifa, where Indian interests have made an end run against China’s ambition to control the port,” Rubin told JNS.
“That said: Biden’s team holds grudges. It will never appreciate Israel for the ally it is,” he added. “Israel should take White House silence as a compliment because the Biden team’s anti-Israel pandering would otherwise jump on any excuse to lambaste the Jewish state.”
Victoria Coates, vice president at the Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, told JNS that Israel’s absence from the White House announcement is one of many questions about the new initiative.
“I would also like to know what the burden is on the U.S. taxpayer for this project, how it will be paid for, what U.S. companies might be involved and what is the return America can expect from this investment,” she said.
‘Huge stimulus to Middle East regional growth’
On Sept. 10, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog responded on social media to a post from U.S. President Joe Biden, which touted the “historic agreement,” without mentioning Israel.
“Thank you to the Biden administration for leading the historic project announced yesterday at the G-20 in India, which will establish an economic corridor between Asia and Europe and go through the Gulf, Jordan and Israel,” he wrote.
“We look forward to working with the U.S. administration and other partners in the region and beyond to realize this groundbreaking project,” Herzog added.
Gary Dugan, chief investment officer of Dalma Capital, added on social media that one of the “huge implications” of the G20 agreement was “the engagement of Israel in a global trade route and with the key partners of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.”
Another implication, to Dugan, would be “a huge stimulus to Middle East regional growth, which will hopefully dampen some of the ongoing tensions with Iran, and the unresolved Palestine issue.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee applauded the White House’s “ambitious plan, developed together with Israel, that will foster greater economic and security partnerships between America, Israel and our allies across the Middle East, Europe and Asia.”
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that the visuals—both videos and images—illustrating the corridor show Israel.
“Perhaps some of the Arab states preferred Israel not to be mentioned by name,” he told JNS.