MUSCAT, Oman — Transportation Minister Israel Katz, in the Gulf State of Oman on Wednesday, pitched plans to link the Mediterranean to the Gulf via the Jewish state, as the country pushes unprecedented public rapprochement with the Arab region.
“It makes sense and is beyond political and ideological disagreements,” said Katz. Israel currently has diplomatic ties with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but not the Sultanate of Oman.
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 the sultanate, 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.
Katz is pushing the ambitious rail plan despite facing criticism at home where a recently launched fast train link between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport has been hit by repeated delays and faults that have seen trains cancelled or stuck in tunnels. The train service is to eventually be extended to complete a high-speed line from the capital to Tel Aviv.
Speaking to the Hadashot news channel on Wednesday from Oman, Katz said that the problems “will be fixed” and noted that the number of passengers using the service has steadily increased every month since its launch in September.
Katz’s trip to Oman comes less than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin 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 perceived 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.