Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced a massive 100 billion shekels (US$27 billion) plan to link the country’s north and south 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 would run approximately 400 kilometres (250 mi) from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona to the southern city of Eilat. “My vision is that every Israeli citizen should be able to travel to or from the center from anywhere in the country in less than two hours,” Netanyahu said. “Less than an hour, or even less in most cases.”
The prime minister explicitly linked the domestic project to regional peace, and in particular to a future normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, which is currently under discussion in Washington. “It (the rail line) will also be able to connect Israel by train to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, we are working on that as well,” Netanyahu said. His remarks came just two days after US President Joe Biden said a normalization agreement could be reached in the wake of US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s talks in Saudi Arabia last week.
The cross-country line is expected to include a bullet train section through the Negev desert. Netanyahu said, “Ben-Gurion said go to the Negev.” “We are bringing infrastructure to the Negev. Without infrastructure [in place] it is a grand but hollow vision,” he added.