Foreign Minister Israel Katz speaks at The Jerusalem Post 8th Annual Conference in New York.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Foreign Minister and Likud MK Israel Katz used his speech at The Jerusalem Post’s Conference in New York on Sunday to call for Israel to be allowed to be involved in the regional economic process of US President Donald Trump that will begin next week in Bahrain.
There has been no confirmation about whether Israel is going to be represented in Bahrain, but there have been reports that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will be going. Katz met on Friday with Trump administration envoy Jason Greenblatt and discussed the issue.
Katz praised the US for promoting ties with what he called the “pragmatic Arab countries” in the region, via security cooperation and joint economic initiatives. He said that the planned Bahrain “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop was a central part of these efforts.
Israel Katz talks about ongoing conflict, Jerusalem Post annual conference, New York
“Israel has a key role to play in this process,” Katz said. “Israel, with its experience and capabilities, can participate in these efforts and contribute in different fields of interest, among them modern technology, energy, innovation and even transportation.”
He told reporters at the conference that Israel will be represented at the economic workshop in a way that will be decided upon later.
Katz, who is also transportation minister, outlined his “Tracks for Regional Peace Initiative” aimed at connecting Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf countries – along with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – to the ports of Haifa in Israel by a network of railroad tracks.
Under the plan, the Haifa-Beit She’an train would extend eastward across the border to Irbid, Jordan, and southward to Jenin, where Palestinians could access it. From Irbid, the train tracks would link with the existing Hijaz Railroad as well as with planned lines extending south through Jordan into Saudi Arabia and further east to the Persian Gulf.
“It is a practical vision for the future, which can bring economic, political and strategic benefits,” he said. “As foreign minister, I intend to promote regional economic cooperation as a top priority.”
Katz thanked the Trump administration for its official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. He outlined Israel’s redlines in the region that he vowed would be enforced.
“No to Iranian nuclear weapons,” Katz said. “No to Iran and Hezbollah basing themselves militarily in Syria. No to precise missile production and upgraded capability in Lebanon. No to any violation of Israeli sovereignty – in the Golan Heights, or anywhere else.”
Katz added that the impact of the American economic sanctions on Iran, and Israel’s military and intelligence activity against Iran, and its proxies in Syria and other places, as well as Russian policy in Syria, will determine if the region heads to stability or war.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi also spoke of the threat of war in his speech at the conference.
“We will not allow an Iranian entrenchment in Syria,” he said. “We will destroy weapons capabilities that threaten our national security.”
Hanegbi called former US president Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran “the moral surrender of the civilized world” and said it “horrified” the Israeli government. He applauded the reversal of the Trump administration, saying that “it will make Israel and the world much safer.”
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