Netanyahu to Push for Railway Linking Israel to Saudi Arabia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarks on a three-day European tour in Germany on Monday with strategic differences on Iran set to dominate as leaders attempt to rescue the nuclear deal after US withdrawal
AFP

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz will “immediately launch” a trade route initiative called “Tracks for Regional Peace” that will see the establishment of a railway network linking Israel to Saudi Arabia. 

President Donald Trump is said to support the project, which could link Haifa’s seaport to Jordanian railways and from there to the Gulf states. The aim is to create a new trade route that would promote coexistence by connecting Europe with the Persian Gulf and Israel, Channel 2 news reported Saturday evening.

“There are two central components at the heart of this initiative,” Katz said about the plan back in April. “Israel as a land bridge between Europe and the Mediterranean and Jordan; and Jordan as a regional transportation hub, which will be connected to a railroad system to Israel and the Mediterranean in the West; to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iraq in the East and southeast; and to the Red Sea, through Aqaba and Eilat, in the south.”

“Beyond its contribution to Israel’s economy, the Jordanian and the Palestinian economies, the initiative will connect Israel economically and politically to the region and will consolidate the pragmatic camp in the region,” he added.

Last year, Katz told Saudi news website Elaph that he wants to revive the historic Hejaz railway.

“As you can see, this regional project will link trains to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

He added that the project would promote regional stability by connecting Israelis and Palestinians with the Sunni Arab world. The railway is set to have a station in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The project is billed as significantly cutting the distance of existing trade routes, as well decreasing costs and danger.

The initiative is said to also offer shorter, cheaper and safer trade routes in light of regional instability threatening passageways through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea.

Netanyahu’s office has begun to advance the project with the U.S., European Union and several countries in the Middle East and Asia, but so far there is no word as to whether those countries have agreed to its application.

Netanyahu has often raised the topic of warming relations between Sunni Gulf states and Israel.

Last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with the Atlantic that Israelis “have the right to have their own land” and that establishing ties between Israel and the kingdom would be beneficial for both sides.

He said, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

“But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” he added.

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