Israel’s transport minister proposed linking its freight railway network with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and said he presented the idea to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy last month.
Under the proposal, goods could travel by rail from the Mediterranean port of Haifa through Jordan to Saudi Arabia’s Gulf port of Dammam.
Speaking on Wednesday, Yisrael Katz, who also serves as Israel’s intelligence minister, declined at a news conference to say whether Arab states had agreed to join his initiative.
After Syria’s civil war began in 2011, Israel opened its Haifa port as a conduit for goods coming from Turkey and Europe to be trucked to Arab countries further east, but traffic has been limited due to small capacity and political opposition.
A railway connection would formalise links across tense borders.
Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, told reporters Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt expressed enthusiasm about the plan during his regional visit.
“I have already started working … I am in touch with very senior elements in the US administration,” said Katz, who has said he intends to eventually succeed Netanyahu as Likud leader.
Katz said he did not believe a rail route would make a serious dent in the high volume of commercial traffic through Egypt’s Suez canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
“If the Palestinians connect to a railway system, the entire area will get a significant economic boost,” he said.
Jordanian officials were not immediately available for comment on the proposal.