Israel plans rail link to Saudi via Jordan, PA
ISRAEL IS pushing a new plan to link the country’s Mediterranean ports to railways in the region.
Transport and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz publicly presented his “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative this week, which has already been shared with the Trump administration and other allies of Israel, including a number of Arab states.
The plan is to connect largely existing rail infrastructure in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia via a new link between the Jezreel Valley and the border crossing to Jordan near Bet Shean. This would to allow goods trains to run all the way from the Persian Gulf to the ports of Ashdod and Haifa.
The direct links could potentially shorten the distance between the main Saudi and Gulf hubs and the Mediterranean by thousands of miles. It could also allow goods shipments to bypass both the tense Hormuz straits, dominated by Iran; and the Bab-al-Mandeb straits connecting the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, currently threatened by the Houthis in Yemen. The network could potentially also include a link to a station in the northern West Bank, providing access for goods in and out of the Palestinian Authority.
The rail transport project is the second major infrastructure programme being pushed by Mr Katz that could potentially have a regional impact: he has also been pushing for an artificial island off the shore of Gaza for years.
Such an project, he argues, could allow the beleaguered Gaza Strip to have both a sea and airport, as well as new energy and desalination plants.
By being detached from Gaza itself, which remains under Hamas control, the island could be secured by an international security force, with customs and security checkpoints on the bridge connecting it to Gaza City.
A senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Mr Netanyahu was indeed “in the loop on the projects” and that some form of prime ministerial endorsement could be expected soon. Both plans were presented two weeks ago to President Donald Trump’s special representative to the region,
David Greenblatt, during his meeting with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
However, there remain significant obstacles to the realisation of Mr Katz’s vision. Senior Jordanian officials said last week there had been no contacts
between them and the Israeli government on the initiative and a Palestinian official was similarly sceptical. Such an ambitious cross-border project may require a peace process to be in place before it gets off the ground.