Israel to push Biden on trade corridor connecting Israel and Gulf

Finance Minister Liberman reportedly met with Lapid to ensure that the Middle East trade corridor would be brought up in talks with Biden during his visit.

The flags of the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain flutter along a road in Netanya (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
The flags of the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain flutter along a road in Netanya
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

A new highway and railway system throughout Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia could facilitate tens of billions of dollars in trade, according to a special paper prepared by the Finance Ministry ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.

The “Corridors for Economic Integration” plan

The paper was drafted by Shira Greenberg, the ministry’s chief economist, under the direction of Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. Government officials said Liberman had met in recent days with Prime Minister Yair Lapid to ensure that its main points would be brought up in talks with Biden during his visit to Israel, which began on Wednesday and will end on Friday.

The paper – obtained by The Jerusalem Post and prepared in English so it could be shared with the Biden administration – promotes a new plan called “Corridors for Economic Integration.” It would create a regional transportation network including railways and highways that link Israel with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

“By creating a direct connection between the Gulf and the Mediterranean, the network will allow for dramatically shorter shipment times between East and West,” the paper says. “The project thus has the potential to facilitate trade on both a regional and global level, in addition to enhancing regional economic cooperation.”

The future is already here - at least some of it

Some sections of the network are already in stages of development, according to the paper. In Israel, a railway runs from the Port of Haifa to Beit She’an, which is only 10 kilometers from the border with Jordan.

 US President Joe Biden speaks after signing an executive order to help safeguard women's access to abortion and contraception after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion, at the White House in Washington, US, July 8, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE) US President Joe Biden speaks after signing an executive order to help safeguard women's access to abortion and contraception after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion, at the White House in Washington, US, July 8, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

In Saudi Arabia, the North-South Railway links the east and center of the country with the north, all the way up to the border with Jordan.

In the Gulf, a railway under development there is being planned to connect those of all Gulf countries, in particular railways in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“By creating a direct connection between the Gulf and the Mediterranean, the network will allow for dramatically shorter shipment times between East and West.”

Finance Ministry

"The missing link"

The distance of the “missing link” – between the Saudi-Jordanian border and the crossing between Israel and Jordan where the railway almost reaches – is just 200 km., the paper says.

The network could facilitate trade between the Gulf, Europe, North Africa and the east coast of the Americas, the paper says, adding: “The existence of numerous relevant and significant trade flows is expected to provide the project with robust demand – as traders in all relevant countries will seek to take advantage of reduced shipment times and direct access to regional markets.”

In the paper, the Finance Ministry calls on the Biden administration to take the reins of the initiative and to bring all of the relevant stakeholders together to facilitate its success.

“While preliminary analyses have shown the project’s potential, a full cost-benefit analysis carried out on behalf of all involved parties by an experienced international partner could also help the sides decide on the next steps,” it says. “We believe that the current positive atmosphere of regional cooperation will allow us the opportunity to move forward in these regards.”