Cabinet Examining Plan for Med-Red Railway

Jerusalem could invite China to help build rail link between Eilat and northern Israel.

Moti Bassok
Moti Bassok
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Moti Bassok
Moti Bassok

The cabinet yesterday began examining a plan for building railway links between the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, which would create a new route for Europe-Asia trade that could compete with the Suez Canal. Establishing passenger train service through the desert, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, would also mean the southern Red Sea resort of Eilat would be just two hours away from Tel Aviv, 350 kilometers to the northwest.

The cabinet is expected to vote on the plan at next week's meeting.

"There will be a line for carrying goods from Asia to Europe," Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday morning. "It has created very great interest among the emerging powers - China and India, and others," he added.

A network of new railway lines and roads would connect the new Eilat route to northern Israel, and this would create "a junction between continents," the prime minister said.

"[The plan] is therefore of strategic importance, both nationally and internationally," he added, explaining that there would be at least one more session of discussion of the subject.

Of the proposals prepared by the Ministry of Transportation for the new rail line, the preferred option was for the work to be done by Chinese state-owned contracting companies, the ministry's website says.

"The professional capability of the Chinese companies in the construction of railway systems and transport networks is among the best in the world," the site quoted Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz as saying. It said Katz met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing in September, and the two agreed to prepare a joint proposal for the Eilat route.

Israeli officials say the so-called Med-Red railway could also be used for future exports of Israeli natural gas to India, and possibly China, from the Mediterranean fields currently under development.

However, Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich slammed what she called Katz's plan "to put the railway-to-Eilat project into the hands of the Chinese while bypassing proper tender processes and importing thousands of Chinese workers." She said the move showed "a malfunction in the government's judgment. Even Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz - who at every opportunity champions the cause of reducing the state's responsibility for its citizens - recognizes that this time the employment of Israelis, not Chinese, must be seen to. There's no question the Chinese would be deeply grateful to Yisrael Katz, but the government's first duty is toward its own citizens," Yachimovich added.

A cabinet meeting in 2011. Credit: Emil Salman

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel

ISRAEL-VOTE

Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism