Israel plans a Trump rail station as Trump-naming frenzy sweeps country
By Oren Liebermann, CNN
A planned high-speed rail station in the Old City of Jerusalem will be named after President Donald Trump, Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz told CNN.
The station, which will be built inside the walls of the Old City, will drop off passengers near the Dung Gate, which leads straight to the Western Wall, the holiest site at which Jews can pray.
Trump made history in early May when he became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, though he did so without any Israeli government officials, in apparent recognition of the sensitivity of his visit.
But dedicating the rail station to Trump is a way of thanking him for what he did earlier in December, when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he intends to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I decided to call the new train station which will be established in the Jewish Quarter near the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in the name of President Donald Trump, because of his historical and brave decision to recognize Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, as the capital of the state of Israel and his intention to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem,” said Katz.
Trump’s decision was hailed by Israelis, even as it was rejected by the vast majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly.
The Old City of Jerusalem — together with the metropolis that surrounds it — is the most sensitive point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming all or part of the city as their capital.
In addition to the station, Trump-naming frenzy has swept across Jerusalem and Israel, where multiple municipal projects are expected to bear the name of the 45th President.
A Jerusalem city council member proposed changing the name of Salah ad-Din Street — a largely Palestinian street that leads into the Old City’s Muslim Quarter — to Donald Trump Street. In a letter addressed to the deputy mayor, Councilman Arieh King wrote, “Thanks to his action, other nations intend to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and work to transfer their embassies to our city.”
In nothern Israel, Kiryat Yam Mayor David Even Tzur plans on naming the city’s new park after Trump. Tzur even suggested he would consider inviting Trump to the opening of the park in April 2018. He received a thank you letter from Trump, which said, “I am thankful for your gesture and am moved to know that the people of Israel are encouraged by my decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
A council resolution in the coastal city of Ashkelon would name a road “Trump Declaration Street,” echoing the title of the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917, in which the British government committed to a Jewish home in British-mandatory Palestine.
Reviled by Palestinians, it is considered one of the most significant documents leading to the creation of the state of Israel. Rabbi Yakov Avitan, an Ashkelon council member, said he believes Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is equally as important.
In an exclusive interview with CNN a day after the General Assembly vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I think what it does is finally recognize a historical truth. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years from the time of King David. It’s been the capital of the state of Israel for 70 years, and it’s about time that the US said — and I’m glad they said it — this is the capital.”
The railway station will take a year to plan and about four years to build at a cost of $215 million, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation said. The station will be about 150 feet underground. The entire project, including a 2-mile extension of the high-speed rail line, will cost approximately $715 million. The line will run from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ikrema Sabri, a senior Muslim cleric and former grand mufti of Jerusalem, slammed the Israeli government’s plan to dig under the Old City, telling Agence France-Presse that Palestinians will never accept “any change or act in the occupied territories. Giving the name of Trump to this project will not give it any legitimacy. It would be just another implementation of the unacceptable decision of President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
Even before announcing plans to name the station for Trump, the high-speed rail project had run into controversy. Two sections — largely underground — of the line run through the West Bank, which is land the Palestinians envision for a future state, a position widely held as the international consensus.