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Israel to Promote Initiative Linking Haifa to Jordanian Rail Network, Saudi Arabia

Israel is to promote an initiative to link the port of Haifa to the Jordanian rail network and from there to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, The Times of Israel reported Sunday.

Called “Tracks for Regional Peace”, the initiative aims at creating a regional transportation network that will promote peace and boost trade by allowing goods to be shipped to Europe from Haifa, bypassing war-torn Syria.

Using Haifa as a hub between Europe and the Arab world has been going on for years. When the initiative was last mooted in April, Israeli Transportation Minister Israel Katz said: “Beyond its contribution to Israel’s economy, the initiative will connect Israel economically and politically to the region and will consolidate the pragmatic camp in the region.”

The minister added the plan has two central components: “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.”

The existing transportation infrastructure in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf would allow for a quick turnaround of the initiative, the minister claimed. After reaching an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Katz is set to advance the plan in consultations with the United States, European Union, and various countries in the Middle East and Asia. Israel expects the U.S. to play an important role in implementing the plan.

At a time regional instability is 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, the Israeli initiative is said to offer shorter, cheaper, and safer trade routes in the region.

[Photo: ערן קידר / WikiCommons ]