Israel’s transport and intelligence minister has announced a plan to connect the Israeli and Palestinian rail network to the wider region.
Israel Katz’s “Tracks for Peace” plan will include links to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and even Iraq. In return, those Arab states will be given access to the Mediterranean through Israel’s ports in Haifa and Ashdod.
The project has the potential to significantly enhance the Palestinian economy by providing improved access markets both in the east via Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and in the west through Israel’s ports to Europe.
“There is historic, security and economic logic to the plan,” Katz said. “Beyond its contribution to Israel’s economy, to the Jordanian economy, which is under pressure, and to the Palestinian economy, the initiative will connect Israel economically and politically to the region and will consolidate the pragmatic camp in the region.”
The detail of the plan outlines enhancing the connection between Haifa and Beit She’an in the Jordan valley and extending it further east to the border crossing with Jordan, and also further south towards Jenin to connect Palestinians. Israel’s neighbours, such as Turkey, already have some access to Haifa’s port because of the Syria conflict. Approximately 5,000 Turkish trucks currently make this journey via Israel each year, helping them to circumvent Syria when transporting to Jordan.
“Tracks for peace” is the second major transportation plan with strategic significance being pushed by Katz. In 2016, he suggested the construction of an artificial island off the Gaza coast, including desalination facilities for clean water, an electricity plant, as well as a freight harbour. The plan would increase the supply of goods to Gaza, while taking Israeli security concerns into account.
[Photo: BICOM ]