Israel and Saudi Arabia could be linked by a future railway line, the initial expansion of which is now being funded by Israel in a NIS 100 billion project. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the project aims to build a high-speed train connecting Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel to its southernmost city of Eilat. Kiryat Shinon is located near the Lebanese border and Eilat is located on the Egyptian border.
“Today we launched the ‘One Israel’ project: connecting the whole country with high-speed rail from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat,” Netanyahu said at his weekly meeting in Jerusalem before his government approved the project.
He linked that project to the possibility of an Israeli-Saudi normalization deal, which is expected to be part of the Riyadh-Washington deal now being discussed between those two capitals.
“In the future, we will be able to transport goods by rail from Eilat to our ports on the Mediterranean Sea, and we will also be able to connect Israel with Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula by rail. We are also working on it,” Netanyahu announced.
He said the project would also have revolutionary national and environmental implications.
“My vision is that all the citizens of the country should be able to travel from any place in the country to the center in less than two hours.
“In most cases, in less than an hour, or even less. No traffic jams, no air pollution, no parking problems: comfortably and safely”, he said.
He said this just two days after US President Joe Biden addressed supporters at a 2024 campaign rally in Freeport Maine. On Thursday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published a column suggesting that Biden was considering a major security deal with Riyadh.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, one of Biden’s most trusted aides, was in Jeddah last week discussing the possibility of a normalization deal with Middle East envoy Brett McGurk, White House officials said. . The Saudi-Israeli Normalization Agreement would be part of any such agreement between Washington and Riyadh.
However, in an interview with Army Radio, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud), said he thought it was too early to think about an Israel-Saudi deal in the near future.
“I think it’s too early to talk about a deal,” Edelstein said.
He referred to the possibility that Israel would pay a high price to reach an agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“How to put it delicately? There are clauses that are far more important or problematic than such-and-such statements in the Palestinian territories,” he said.
“Most of the Saudi discussions are with the Americans, not with us,” he said, adding that when it comes to Riyadh’s demands on Washington, “there are some things we can live with better, and some things with whom we cannot live.” With this we can live a worse life.
Asked by reporters at the entrance to the weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi whether there would be progress in the Saudi talks, he said: “I hope so.”