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Jerusalem - 'Historic' Plan Unveiled To Link Arab States To Israeli Ports

Published on: April 5, 2017 11:30 AM
By: Jerusalem Post
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Israeli minister of Transportation Israel Katz at a press conference held at the Ministry of Transport regarding the creation of an artificial island off the Gaza coast, which would contain a port, power and water desalination plants, and an airport. April 05, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90 Israeli minister of Transportation Israel Katz at a press conference held at the Ministry of Transport regarding the creation of an artificial island off the Gaza coast, which would contain a port, power and water desalination plants, and an airport. April 05, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Jerusalem - Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz unveiled an ambitious plan on Wednesday to give Jordan, Saudi Arabia and even Iraq access to the Mediterranean sea through Israel’s ports in Haifa and Ashdod in a plan called “tracks for peace.”

Under the plan, the Haifa to Beit Shean train link would be extended eastward to the border crossing with Jordan, and southwards to the Jenin area, where the Palestinians could connect to it. Under the plan, rail lines would be laid in Jordan to Irbid, and from there it would link with existing and planned lines extending north-south through Jordan, into Saudi Arabia and further east into the Persian Gulf.

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Katz, who at a press conference to unveil the plan also said in answer to a question that he plans to vie for the Likud leadership when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu steps down, said Netanyahu asked him to present this plan to US envoy Jason Greenblatt when he was in the region last month. He said that Greenblatt received the plan “enthusiastically.”

The idea of turning Israel into a landbridge stems, he said, from the geographic fact that Israel sits at the center of three continents. “There is historic, security and economic logic to the plan,” he said.

On a security level, it would provide an answer to Iranian threats to close off the strategic Strait of Hormuz waterway, as goods that are carried by ship via the Red Sea could be delivered overland through Israel. Turkey, he said, is already using Israel as a land bridge, with 5,000 Turkish lorries landing by ferry at haifa port each year, and making their way to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf overland from Haifa to the Sheikh Hussein Bridge, and from there further east.

Under the plan, Jordan would become a regional transportation hub, as it would be connected to the Israeli rail system and have access to the Mediterranean, and also have the potential to link up with the rails systems in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iraq to the east and southeast.

Furthermore, by linking up with Jenin, it would provide a massive boost to the Palestinian economy, which would then have easy access markets both in the east through Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and also to the west through Israel’s ports to Europe.

“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,” he said.

Katz added that the initiative will create alternative trade routes between east and west that will be shorter, faster, cheaper and safer, “especially in view of the Iranian threat to maritime routes in the Gulf and the Red Sea –through Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen.”

Katz said he has had talks on the matter with the Jordanians and Egyptians, as well as other Arab players in the region, whom he would not name.

During the press conference Katz did not address the recently reiterated refusal of the Arab League to normalize relations with Israel until an agreement is reached with the Palestinians.

The plan comes amid talk of a US initiative to convene a summit of regional states in the summer to re-launch Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

In addition to this plan, Katz has also brought a proposal in recent months to the security cabinet for the construction of an artificial island off the coast of Gaza that would provide Gaza access to the world, while allowing Israel to have security control over the goods and material going in and out of the island.



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 Apr 05, 2017 at 02:13 PM The_Truth Says:

Go East young man!

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