Israel Railways transport minister proposed linking its freight railway network with Jordan and Saudi Arabia boosting economic growth. He said he presented the idea to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy last month.
Under the proposal, goods could travel by rail from the Mediterranean port of Haifa through Jordan to Saudi Arabia’s Gulf port of Dammam.
Speaking on Wednesday, Yisrael Katz, who also serves as Israel’s intelligence minister, declined at a news conference to say whether Arab states had agreed to join his initiative.
After Syria’s civil war, Israel opened its Haifa port as a conduit for goods coming from Turkey and Europe to be trucked to Arab countries further east. Presently, the traffic has been limited due to small capacity and political opposition.
The Israel railways proposed connection would formalise links across tense borders. 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.
Katz, told reporters Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt expressed enthusiasm about the plan during his regional visit.
“I have already started working … I am in touch with very senior elements in the US administration,” said Katz Israel Railways decision maker, who has said he intends to eventually succeed Netanyahu as Likud leader.
Furthermore, Katz said he did not believe a rail route would make a serious dent in the high volume of commercial traffic through Egypt’s Suez canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
“If the Palestinians connect to a railway system, the entire area will get a significant economic boost,” he said.
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.Such an ambitious cross-border project may require a peace process to be in place before it gets off the ground.
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