Officials at the state-owned Israel Railways confirmed that it has completed a proposal to establish train service in Judea and Samaria for both Israeli and Palestinian passengers.
The plan, first reported on Monday by Haaretz, was prepared at the request of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. According to a map obtained by the Israeli daily, it calls for the construction of 11 new rail lines. The map reveals that Israel Railways has proposed 475 kilometers of rail, and includes a Jenin-Nablus-Ramallah-Jerusalem-Ma’aleh Adumim-Bethlehem-Hebron line, and another that would run along the Jordanian border from Eilat to Beit She’an and then on to Haifa. According to the report, the map was submitted to the top brass of the the IDF’s Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria in December.
Likud MK Katz has made no secret of his intention to erect a railway system that would criss-cross Judea and Samaria. The report stated that Katz has already allocated 3 million shekels for a train-line from Rosh Ha’ayin to Sh’chem in Samaria, and that specs for the first part of the line – from Rosh Ha’ayin to the city of Ariel in Samaria – have already been drafted.
In a preface to the proposal, Israel Railways states that its objective is to “address the transportation needs of local residents and other passengers.” Another important objective is increasing the “continuity between the rail network within the Green Line and the planned network in Judea and Samaria.” The proposal also envisions extending the rail lines to other Arab countries.
The proposal does not offer a time frame nor a price estimate. And, beyond the financial and legal obstacles, intense cooperation with the PA would be necessary. Officials from both Israel Railways and the Israeli government acknowledged that this would be a tall task, especially in the current climate of official Palestinian incitement and implacability regarding the peace process.
A spokesperson for Israel Railways said, on condition of anonymity, “We have presented a plan sought by the transport ministry, but for the moment nothing has been done on the ground. The decision on the construction of railways is the responsibility of politicians.”
The transport ministry had no immediate comment.