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All aboard the normalisation train: US backs Israel's proposal for Hejaz railway link to Gulf Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

All aboard the normalisation train: US backs Israel's proposal for Hejaz railway link to Gulf

The Ottoman-era Hejaz railway once ran from Damascus to the holy city of Medina [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2018

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The US has expressed support for an Israeli plan to revive a historic railroad network linking the Jewish state to Gulf countries.

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US, Israel, Gulf.
The US has expressed support for an Israeli plan to revive a historic railroad network linking the Jewish state to Gulf countries.

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's peace envoy, hailed the proposal on Monday as an Israeli minister visits Oman to present the "Tracks for Regional Peace" project.

"Let's keep the dialogue going. These efforts support our efforts," Greenblatt, who has been tasked with drafting a blueprint for Israel-Palestinian peace, tweeted.

Israeli state-media said the comments were the first time a US official has publicly backed the ambitious railway proposal that would link Israel with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel's transport minister Yisrael Katz on Monday was in the Omani capital Muscat to attend a transportation conference, two weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Gulf state in a surprise visit.

"This is a historic visit to strengthen relations and I intend to present a mutual initiative 'Tracks for Regional Peace' to connect the Gulf states to Israel," Katz was quoted as saying.

He added that the rail link will "bypass Iran" and pave the way for "normalising relations" between Tel Aviv and Gulf states.

Katz last year spoke to Saudi-owned news website Elaph about the freight railway network, saying he wanted to revive the historic Hejaz railway as a part of US President Donald Trump's controversial peace proposal.

The Ottoman-era Hejaz railway once ran from Damascus to the holy city of Medina with a branch to the coastal city of Haifa.

The developments come amid warming in relations between Israel and Gulf states in part out of mutual animosity toward Iran.

Palestinian officials have strongly condemned Oman for hosting Netanyahu, saying it was a betrayal of the Palestinian people who still live under brutal Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.

The visit was also criticised by pro-Palestine activists and media outlets.

Last week, officials in the United Arab Emirates also took the Israeli sports minister on a guided tour of the grand mosque of Abu Dhabi as she made the first official visit to the Gulf state.

Netanyahu has frequently boasted of warming, behind-the-scenes ties with Arab states.

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