Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz in Oman..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel can be linked by rail to the Middle East in advance or any regional peace agreements, Israel’s Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said on Wednesday in a short speech he delivered at an international conference in Oman.
The initiative, which is rooted in history, is aimed at connecting this region to the Mediterranean Sea.
“It is based on two central ideas - Israel as a land bridge and Jordan as a regional transportation hub - and on rail infrastructure which already exists in the region or is in planning or building stages,” Katz told the ministers.
“It makes sense and is beyond political and ideological disagreements, it does not contradict any existing or future agreements and it can be advanced along side them,” Katz explained.
He made a rare appearance in the Muslim state with no ties to Israel to push his counterparts at the IRU World Congress to support a railway plan, called “Tracks for Middle East Peace” that his office developed with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the United States.
The rail plan will boost the regional economy, Katz explained. “It will create an additional trade route in the region, which is shorter, faster and cheaper, and will contribute to the economies of Jordan, the Palestinians - who will also be connected to the initiative -Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and in the future Iraq as well,” the minister said.
He urged all the countries in the room to support and participate in the project, which he deemed “necessary, desirable and possible.”
Katz’s attendance at the conference was low-key. He was not among those attending ministers whose named published in the program.
But the brief speech he delivered to a ministerial plenum was still hailed by Israel as an important part of the sudden thaw in Israeli ties with the Arab world.
US special Jason Greenblatt issued two tweets in support of the rail plan and highlighting Katz’s presence in Oman.
Netanyahu and right-wing ministers such as Katz have long argued that Israel can have normalized ties with moderate neighbors, particularly the Gulf countries, even in advance of any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But it is only recently, in advance of the unveiling of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan that a few Arab states, have shed some of their antagonism to Israel, with Oman taking the lead. It has publicly called for normalized ties with Israel and it hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.
Israel’s Ambassador to Great Britain Mark Regev told the BBC, “We are working today more than ever before with countries across the Gulf. Today, Israel is talking to more Arab governments than ever before.”
He added, “For many years, our friends were on the other side of the Mediterranean. Today, we have friends and partners in the region and we are working with them very closely.”
“I see Israel’s relationship with the Arab states only getting stronger. That is good for the region, that is good for peace,” Regev said.
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