The Jerusalem light rail.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Transportation Ministry plans to build its first light rail in the West Bank, linking the central Israeli cities of Petah Tikva and Rosh Ha’ayin with the Ariel settlement.
“This is good news for the continued development of the city of Ariel. It has over 20,000 residents, an industrial park and a university with 15,000 students,” said the city’s mayor, Eli Shaviro.
And there are thousands of people in communities around Ariel that consider it their central city, he said.
Ariel is considered a settlement bloc – but its location deep in Samaria, some 16 kilometers over the Green Line, has given it a tenuous status on the international stage.
Under prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, the city received very few construction authorizations. Since 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has significantly increased those permits, with more construction approvals occurring there than in some of the other three larger cities of Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit and Ma’aleh Adumim.
Shaviro said that a train would help cement Ariel’s place as the capital of Samaria.
Transpiration Minister Israel Katz has long envisioned a train in Judea and Samaria.
On Thursday he gave his approval to the overall idea of the project. But planning is still in its infancy, with three alternatives on the table for the route of between 29 and 35 kilometers.
One of them also includes stops in the Barkan Industrial Park and the Elkana settlements as well as in the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Kassem.
No budget has been set for the project.
The move is part of a series of steps by right-wing politicians to normalize life for the 400,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, by erasing the Green Line and improving the link between the settlements and the rest of the country.
“I want to thank Minister Israel Katz and his team for working together to establish and promote the city as the capital of Samaria,” Shaviro said.
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