The South East Mediterranean
The South East Mediterranean encompasses the southern shore of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and North Sinai. It includes major cities such as Port Said, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gaza, as well as the Northern Sinai cities of El-Arish and Rafah. Within the framework of peace in the Middle East and the creation of new regional political realities, this area currently harbors significant potential for development in various economic spheres, such as tourism, agriculture, commerce and trade, transportation, energy, water development and communications.
The Mediterranean is a virtually enclosed sea. While inflow from the Atlantic Ocean at Gibraltar ensures a constant water level, evaporation, which is not adequately compensated for by fresh water inflows, renders the sea and its surrounding coastline highly saline. Mediterranean waters are warm and tides tend to be weak. These as well as climatic attributes contribute to tourism. At the same time however, they also add to the region's environmental sensitivity. Problems of pollution are aggravated by the sea's limited exposure to inflows from outside bodies of water.
Strategic location, commerce and trade constitute the key attributes coloring the region's demographic and economic development throughout history. The coastal area is best noted for its port cities and as a corridor connecting Egypt to Asia Minor and Europe. Although agrarian settlements do and have existed throughout time, semi-sedentary and urban settlements around various sea ports characterize the area's demographic development. Movement through the area was recorded throughout ancient and modern history. Gaza Meyumas, the ancient port of Gaza was one of the primary centers of Hellenistic culture in the region. It also become one of the earliest centers of Christianity at the beginning of the Byzantine period. Another important city originating from this period is Osterkina (el-Pelusiat), near the Northern Sinai town of el-Arish.
Ecologically the East Mediterranean basin is noted for its desert landscapes. Large sand dunes, created by wind and time prevail along the Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Northern Sinai coastline. These dunes can extend as much as six kilometers in length or width. The region hosts special ecological subsystems such as the Bardawil Lagoon, in which some African flamingos have taken seasonal residence, and Wadi el-kudeirat Oasis (Kadesh Barnea) which boasts natural springs, prehistoric relics as well as ruins from the iron age Roman and Byzantine periods. The coastline from Port Said to Gaza and southern Israel is characterized by clear blue water and virgin white beaches.
Development Potential of the South East Mediterranean
The development potential of the Southeast Mediterranean rests on the combination of several factors, which can best be realized within the framework of an active partnership between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The following contributing features have been identified:
South East Mediterranean (SEMED) Development Project
A project for the coordinated development of the South East Mediterranean has been initiated by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, with the assistance of the European Union. The development area extends along the coast from Ashdod, to the Bardawil Lagoon in the North Sinai. The central focus of this endeavor is to investment on specific near-term sub-regional projects that will enhance the areas attractiveness to private investors, advance economic integration between the three partners and encourage joint ventures, job creation and new enterprises in SEMED. An emphasis is placed on the development of the Gaza Strip to enable the Palestinian Authority to attain parity with the other parties.
Ten projects in the areas of Human Resource Development with an emphasis on technical and vocational training (TVT), Agriculture and Tourism have been selected for priority implementation. A Steering Committee was appointed to guide project development and in 1996 a Technical Support Unit (TSU) was selected to conduct prefeasibility studies on selected projects.
Initially 42 were reviewed and 10 were selected as top priority for implementation. Projects were selected according to the following criteria:
Source: Based on data from Technical Support Unit for the TEAM and SEMED Projects, Final Interim Report for the SEMED Region, June 1997.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry