Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday hailed the US-led initiative to create a rail and shipping link that will connect India with the Middle East and Europe as the start of a “unique and unprecedented era of global and regional cooperation.”
The ambitious project, which Western leaders officially announced during the G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend, is part of a pioneering initiative to foster economic growth and political cooperation, building on the new possibilities created by the 2020 Abraham Accords and the normalization in relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel hoped for in early 2024.
“This link will also realize a multi-year vision that will change the face of the Middle East and Israel, and will affect the entire world,” Netanyahu said in a video statement. “Its vision reshapes the face of our region and allows a dream to become reality.”
Israel will be a “central junction” in this economic corridor, with Israeli railways and ports part of this new gateway, which will run from India, through the Middle East to Europe and back, the prime minister said.
“This is a big deal,” US President Joe Biden said. “This is a really big deal.”
The proposal to create the link, which would start in India and pass through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel before reaching Europe, is also seen as the latest indication that a historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia is likely in the months ahead.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Saturday that the transportation project is not seen as a “precursor” to a normalization deal but he characterized Israel’s inclusion as “significant.”
“The participants in this effort are focused on practical outcomes that deliver for their people,” Sullivan said. “And a corridor of this kind by dint of geography works best having Israel in as opposed to out and the countries participating prioritized that.”
The Biden administration initiative, set to cost around $20 billion according to Saudi estimates, would boost trade, transport, energy resources and digital connectivity. It would include the construction of railways, a hydrogen pipeline, fiber-optic communications and electricity cables.
The news of the project, released jointly by the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the European Union, France, Italy and Germany, is also meant to counter Chinese inroads in the region.
These locomotive aspirations raise redemptive thoughts. Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, a leading rabbi in Jerusalem in the late 19th century, heard the whistle of the first train to arrive in Jerusalem in 1892, and said, “They are clearing the way for Moshiach (Messiah) and the geula (redemption) is on the way.”
Similarly, Rabbi Yekutiel Fish, who writes a geula and Kabbalah blog in Hebrew called Sod HaChashmal (the secret energy), linked the train system to the Third Temple.
“For 2,000 years, the Jews were living in a reality prophesied by Balaam as a ‘people that dwells apart,’” Rabbi Fish said. “As long as Israel is a nation apart, we can never fulfill our role as a nation of priests in a House of Prayer for all nations.
“Becoming part of a transportation network will help this happen. Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’) is preparing the way for the pilgrims from around the world to arrive at the Temple,” Rabbi Fish said.
“Practically, a train is the best means to serve the Templs since it can carry many more people without the dangers or traffic jams associated with highways,” Fish said. “In Gematria (Hebrew numerology), ‘rakevet’ (train) equals 622, precisely the same as ‘har HaBayit’ (the Temple Mount).”
A high-speed rail system connecting Ben-Gurion Airport to Jerusalem was completed, with additional branches planned, including one that will take travelers to the Donald Trump Station at a Western Wall station.