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Train from Ramallah to Gaza? Erdan Says Not Yet

Minister Gilad Erdan responds to reports of a train line from Ramallah to Gaza, and discusses the new PA Arab city of Rawabi.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/29/2010, 10:20 PM / Last Update: 8/30/2010, 9:03 AM

Flash 90

Minister for Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan spoke to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service on Sunday and responded to reports of a planned train line from Ramallah to Gaza. The daily paper Yisrael Hayom had reported on the planned line, which would also pass through Ben-Gurion Airport.

The report was extremely premature, Erdan said. While there was talk of a train line, the project will not actually be built unless there is peace between Israel and Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, he explained.

The train line was proposed as part of an exchange allowing Israel to annex land east of the 1949 armistice line for its own train line, he clarified. Israel needs land east of the line, which has not been officially annexed to Israel to date, in order to build tracks in the Mevaseret and Latrun areas near Jerusalem.

Erdan also discussed the planned PA Arab city of Rawabi, currently under construction in Samaria. Erdan has insisted that the PA construction be held to reasonable standards of environmental safety.

“We can't make demands of Jews when it comes to environmental protections, but then when it comes to a Palestinian project like the train or like Rawabi allow everything to be done carelessly,” he said. “We can't make extreme demands of Jews in Judea and Samaria while the government helps a project like this [Rawabi] that does major environmental damage.”

“Pollution has no borders, and will eventually reach all of us,” Erdan said.

PA planners are currently building apartments in Rawabi for the upper class, but have yet to plan a sewage system, streets, or water lines, he said. If sewage from the city is not properly dealt with, it will run down into the Israeli water system, he noted.

Erdan demanded a report on the environmental impact of the Rawabi project, and recently received one, which his office is reviewing. He noted that Israel still has the power to halt the project if the PA refuses to curb pollution at the site, saying, “The territory may be under Palestinian control, but the access roads, the water, and all the rest is under Israeli authority.”

Regarding Israeli negotiations with the PA, Erdan said he is pessimistic. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rejected what former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had to offer, he pointed out, and Netanyahu is planning to offer less. “If Abu Mazen objected then, there's no reason for him to agree now,” he concluded.