“Israel offered us the chance to participate in a railway scheme linking Haifa to Jenin to a number of Arab capitals,” the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister said on Twitter. “But we rejected the offer,” al-Sheikh said. “We won’t normalize relations with Israel.”
Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh rejected an Israeli offer to establish a railway link between Israel and several Arab states that would go through the West Bank on Friday.
“Israel offered us the chance to participate in a railway scheme linking Haifa to Jenin to a number of Arab capitals,” the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister said on Twitter.
— حسين الشيخ Hussein Al Sheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) February 15, 2019
“But we rejected the offer,” al-Sheikh said. “We won’t normalize relations with Israel and we won’t take part in economic solutions that perpetuate the occupation.”
The statement refers to an Israeli initiative unveiled by transportation minister, and current Likud party Knesset hopeful, Israel Katz in April 2017, which would make Israel a bridge between Europe and the Middle-East.
The April 2017 plan, called ‘Tracks for Peace,’ would see Israel build a rail link between the major port of Haifa, in the north of the country, to Amman, Jordan, via the West Bank.
Connecting into the Jordanian rail system would then build a direct connection to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
“It makes sense and is beyond political and ideological disagreements,” Yisrael Katz previously said on a rare November visit to a transport summit in Oman.
Arguing that the proposal was also favorable to the Palestinian economy, the minister said the additional trade route would be “shorter, faster and cheaper, and will contribute to the economies of Jordan, the Palestinians — who will also be connected to the initiative — Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and in the future Iraq as well.”
The plan has reportedly received warm approval in Washington – although it is unlikely to find supporters in the region, despite Katz’s efforts.
The Palestinian position, while not surprising, reiterates that there will be no compromise with Israel after Netanyahu scored a massive mediatic coup in Polish capital Warsaw this week.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rubbed shoulders with a plethora of high-ranking Arab officials at a US-led summit focusing on curbing Iranian influence on the region.
Social networks were awash with messages blasting the Arab states for pursuing normalization with the Jewish state.
The Israelis capitalized on the phenomenon, with the prime minister’s office itself leaking a video showing Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa calling Iran the most toxic challenge to the region.
“We grew up talking about the Palestine-Israel dispute as the most important issue,” the politician says. “But then we saw it the most toxic challenge came to us from Tehran,” he continued, calling the Iranian government a “fascist regime.”
“If it wasn’t for the toxic money, guns and foot soldiers of the Islamic Republic, I believe we would be much closer of solving this problem with Israel,” he concluded.
The video was later deleted, but not before it was uploaded by several media outlets.
The Palestinian leadership sees the normalization of diplomatic relations between Arab states and Israel as one of the greatest threats to their cause, and sees it as a direct challenge to their claim to statehood within pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
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