Minister Katz in Oman: Rail from Israel to Gulf 'makes sense'

Transport minister pitches plans for railway linking the Mediterranean to the Gulf via Israel.


Yisrael Katz
Yisrael Katz
Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Israel's transport minister on Wednesday pitched plans to link the Mediterranean to the Gulf via the Jewish state, as his country pushes unprecedented public rapprochement with the Arab region.

"It makes sense and is beyond political and ideological disagreements," said Yisrael Katz, whose country has diplomatic ties with only two Arab states.

The "Tracks of Peace" rail link, which Katz said was supported by the administration of US President Donald Trump, was "based on two central ideas - Israel as a land bridge and Jordan as a regional transportation hub".

Katz, who was speaking at an international transport conference in Oman, said the proposed railway was favorable to Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf states, as well as the Palestinian economy.

"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," Katz said.

A transcript of the minister's comments was provided to AFP by his office.

Katz's trip to Oman comes less than two weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to the Gulf sultanate - the first in more than 20 years by an Israeli premier.

The trip was a coup for Netanyahu, who wants to bolster ties with the Arab world in the face of the expansion of Iranian influence across the region.

It also follows highly publicized visits late last month by Israel's culture and communications ministers to the United Arab Emirates.