(July 30, 2023 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced a mammoth 100 billion shekel ($27 billion) plan to link the north and south of the country by rail. When completed, such a rail line would also allow the transport of goods from Israel to Saudi Arabia.
The proposed high-speed rail line will run about 400 kilometers (250 miles), from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona to the southern city of Eilat.
“My vision is for every Israeli citizen to be able to travel to or from the center from anywhere in the country in less than two hours,” said Netanyahu. “In most cases under an hour, and even less than that.”
Regional peace in the offing
The premier pointedly connected the domestic project with regional peace, and specifically a future normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, which is currently under discussion in Washington.
“It [the rail line] will also be able to link Israel by train to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, we’re working on that too,” said Netanyahu.
He made the remarks just two days after President Joe Biden said that a normalization deal could be on the way in the wake of talks U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held last week in Saudi Arabia.
The cross-country line is expected to include a bullet train segment through the Negev desert.
“Ben-Gurion said go down to the Negev,” said Netanyahu. “We are bringing the infrastructure to the Negev. Without the infrastructure [in place] it’s a giant but empty vision,” he added.