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Israel minister proposes a train station named for Trump at Western Wall

An aerial view of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Dome of the Rock. Israel's transportation minister is pushing ahead with a plan to extend Jerusalem's soon-to-open high speed rail line to the Western Wall. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Avraham Graicer

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s transportation minister is pushing ahead with a plan to dig a railway tunnel under Jerusalem’s Old City, passing near sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims — and ending at the Western Wall with a station named after President Donald Trump.

Yisrael Katz said a high-speed rail station would allow visitors to reach “the beating heart of the Jewish people — the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.” He proposed naming the station after Trump “for his brave and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” earlier this month.

Katz’s plan, currently in the initial stages, involves constructing two underground stations and excavating over 2 miles (3 kilometers) of tunnel beneath downtown Jerusalem and under the politically sensitive Old City. The project would extend Jerusalem’s soon-to-open high-speed rail line from Tel Aviv to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Nonstop controversy

The route will run close to — but not directly under — the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where tradition holds that Jesus was crucified and buried, and a contested holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Previous excavations by Israel near the holy site — the spiritual epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — have sparked violent Palestinian protests. Because of those sensitivities, the proposal will likely meet with heavy resistance from the Palestinians, neighboring Arab countries, and the international community.

Katz, a senior Cabinet official who also serves as Israel’s intelligence minister, is a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is seen by many as his likely eventual successor as head of the Likud party.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia said Wednesday the project is estimated to cost more than $700 million and, if approved, would take four years to complete.
Katz’s office said the minister advanced the plan in a recent meeting with Israel Railways executives, and has fast-tracked it in the planning committees.

Trump’s announcement has enraged the Palestinians and much of the Muslim world. The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution last week condemning the move, with several traditional American allies breaking with Washington to vote in favor of the motion.

In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010, a view of the bridge in construction for the planned high speed train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, near Latrun, Israel. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israel captured east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in 1967, and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and a longstanding international consensus holds that the fate of the city should be decided through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Digging railway tunnels to the Western Wall would also entail excavating in Jerusalem’s Old City, where religious and political sensitivities — as well as layers of archaeological remains from the city’s 3,000-year history — could make for a logistical and legal quagmire.

Archeologists object

Last year an initiative to convert an already excavated area abutting the Western Wall into an egalitarian Jewish prayer section was hotly contested by Israeli archaeologists, who said such a move would cause irreparable damage to the historic remains of the ancient city.

Despite the likely opposition to the project, Ovadia said he expects the plans to be approved in the coming year, barring major complications. The Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high-speed line is expected to open next spring.

“There’s no reason why this train won’t be built,” he said. “We already know how to deal with no less difficult opposition.”

Katz has previously proposed other ambitious infrastructure projects, including an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip that would serve as an air and seaport for the Palestinian territory, and a railway connecting Israel with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

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The Associated Press

10 Comments

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  • Katz, you’re such a piker. Think yuge, man. Think yuge. How about erecting a larger-than-life plastic Trump over by the Wailing Wall? Do the man justice.

    And … that’s a great photo at the top of the article. I’d suggest nicely done 18″ x 24″ lithographs, autographed by Trump, in the Dome of the Rock gift shop. The proceeds can be used to fund extreme vetting for all Muslims by the US immigration service.

  • US aid to Israel is currently running at over $3000m per annum

    Who do you think Israel is expecting, directly or indirectly, to provide $700m + for two miles of railway and Trump station? The same people who will have to finance any Mexican-border wall?

  • The archeological reasons alone make the train construction plans a literally holy mess in Jerusalem. Many cities with large ancient parts find ways to create mass transit that does not potentially destroy the preserved cultural heritage of a given location. This one seems designed to do that almost intentionally.

  • Dear God, please bring some sense to the Israelis.

    Naming something after Trump simply increases the focus of hate for the site, increases the probability that violence will be focused there, and increases the hatred of Islamic people for the U.S., increasing the risk for violence focused against us, too.

    Please don’t do it. You certainly are not honoring the people of this country – most of us don’t approve of Trump, much less like him.

    Please don’t do it.

  • I say we just rebuild the Temple and put a yuuuge gold-plated statue of Trump in it for us all to bow down to. Almost just in time for Hanukkah. #MIGA

  • I don’t think it’s intended to destroy anyone’s cultural heritage, I do think it’s intended to annoy and antagonize though. On the other hand, Katz has also proposed other quixotic infrastructure projects, many of them friendly toward Arab neighbors. Note the generally muted response of Saudi Arabia to the Jerusalem announcement. There’s a lot of wink-wink-nod-nod going on between Israel and SA right now, much of it generated by joint opposition to ISIS and Iran (which themselves oppose each other).
    Nor do I think this train will actually get built. Only tourists are interested in going from Tel Aviv to the Old City. The actual almost-completed line from TA to Jlem is stopping far to the west, near the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and the Convention Center. What Jlem really needs is a better metro or light rail. One line has already been completed and can take you downtown (West Jerusalem) close enough to walk to the Old City. Other planned lines are going to Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, but not the Old City itself.

  • It’s the art of the deal in which the Israeli minister can gain favor with President Trump for a few years, and if or when Trump fcks-up the works, they can easily change the name of the train station. It is all game playing.

    As for “Arabs”, the silent majority of the young Arab world wants to come into the 21st with another Arab Spring, The first Arab Spring was all about young Arabs in a dozen Countries wanting more freedom, better education, science and technology, unrestricted internet, free entrepreneurship, freedom of association, etc. For the most part, they were basically shut down by religious leaders, their dictators and their totalitarian governments.

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