Media sources in Israel have revealed that the Israeli Transport Minister and Railway Authority have prepared a blueprint for the extension of the country's railway network to service the illegal Jewish settler communities across the occupied West Bank. The scheme being developed by Yisrael Katz is set to bring the total length of the network to 475km. Katz is a member of the ruling Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the online edition of Ha'aretz newspaper, the scheme will see the construction of 11 new railway lines. The article drew attention to the fact that the project was reviewed last December by the Israel Defence Force's Supreme Planning body in the West Bank's "civil administration" with a view to going ahead with planning procedures and the submission of amendments to the blueprint.
One of the networks' planned routes, called the Mountain Back Line, passes through the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, the settlement of Maale Adumim located between Jerusalem and Jericho, and continues to Bethlehem and Hebron in the south of the occupied territory. The Jordan Valley Line runs parallel to the border with Jordan and links the settlement of Eilat in the far south of the occupied Palestinian territories, with the Dead Sea, Jericho, and Beisan to the north of the Jordan Valley; from there, it turns westwards towards Haifa.
According to Ha'aretz, the first section of the new routes planned originates inside Israel and runs to the settlement of Ariel, the largest illegal Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank. Planning has been completed in detail, linking the settlement of Roche Ha'in (built on land belonging to the town of Ra's al-Ayn, occupied in 1948), and Nablus in the West Bank. The proposed routes criss-cross the West Bank and include occupied Jerusalem.
A supporting infrastructure is also planned by the Israeli occupation authorities, and the proposal includes an extension of the route to Gaza and neighbouring countries. The Chairman of the Planning Committee, Sholmo Moskovitz, said that the railway's routes pass through Area A (subject to complete Palestinian administrative and security authority under the Oslo accords) and Area B, which is under Palestinian administrative control and but Israeli security.