Katz (black shirt) and Mesika
Katz (black shirt) and MesikaIsrael news A7 photo

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, the latest in a long line of official visitors to the Shomron Regional Council, made two startling announcements during his visit to Samaria on Tuesday: The Jewish construction freeze will end in September, as planned, and a train network will connect Jenin, Samaria and Jerusalem.

"In another four months," Katz declared at a festive ceremony inaugurating the new access road to the town of Tapuach, "Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria will be resumed in full force. Never again will towns be uprooted – neither Jewish towns nor Arab ones. The residents of the Shomron will remain in their place forever."

Katz, considered a skilled politician, is a close ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He is one of some 50 Knesset Members and Cabinet ministers to have been hosted over the past year for a day-long visit to Jewish towns in Samaria by the Shomron Regional Council.

Journalists and other public figures have also taken part in such visits. TV personality Yair Lapid, son of the late anti-religious politician Tommy Lapid, visited on Monday, and his colleague Avri Gilad, who visited last month, said it led to a "consciousness revolution" within him.

New Road, New Trains

The visit of Minister Katz and top Transportation Ministry personnel concentrated on their ministry projects in the area. The top item on their agenda was the dedication of the new Tapuach road, and Katz also discussed his train plans: "We are planning to build a network of railroad tracks in Judea and Samaria," Katz said. He said it will be internationally funded, and will connect the PA-controlled Arab city of Jenin with the Jezreel Valley train line. The network will also feature a train from Samaria to Jerusalem.

Katz and his colleagues visited the towns of Har Brachah, Bruchin, the Barkan industrial zone, the Samaritans, Itamar and its hilltop satellites, and more.

Host Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Shomron Regional Council, praised Minister Katz for his efforts on behalf of transportation in Judea and Samaria, and asked him to work to ensure that the construction freeze is revoked.

Upgrade Asked for Towns!

In Bruchin, Mesika asked Katz to encourage Prime Minister Netanyahu to sign the zoning plans for Bruchin and nearby Rechelim, in order that these two veteran communities be removed from the official list of "outposts."