Israel floats plans for 'Trump Station' by Jerusalem's Western Wall

Israel's transport minister has pushed plans to name a future rail station near the Western Wall after US President Donald Trump. Yisrael Katz said he wanted to thank Trump for recognizing the city as Israel's capital.

An Israeli minister on Wednesday announced that he would like to name the final stop of a planned railway under Jerusalem's Old City after US President Donald Trump.

The current proposal, the brainchild of Israeli transport minister Yisrael Katz, would see the underground railway pass through eastern Jerusalem up to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray and the area Palestinians view as their own future capital. 

Read more: Opinion: Trump wantonly fans the flames of Middle East conflict

"I have decided to name the Western Wall station ... after US President Donald Trump for his courageous and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel," Katz said in a statement on Wednesday.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

Jerusalem, the city of David

According to the Old Testament, David, king of the two partial kingdoms of Judah and Israel, won Jerusalem from the Jebusites around 1000 BC. He moved his seat of government to Jerusalem, making it the capital and religious center of his kingdom. The Bible says David's son Solomon built the first temple for Yahweh, the God of Israel. Jerusalem became the center of Judaism.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

Under Persian rule

The Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II (3rd from the left) conquered Jerusalem in 597 and again in 586 BC, as the Bible says. He took King Jehoiakim (5th from the right) and the Jewish upper class into captivity, sent them to Babylon and destroyed the temple. After Persian king Cyrus the Great seized Babylon, he allowed the exiled Jews to return home to Jerusalem and to rebuild their temple.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

Under Roman and Byzantine rule

The Roman Empire ruled Jerusalem from the year 63 AD. Resistance movements rapidly formed among the population, so that in 66 AD, the First Jewish–Roman War broke out. The war ended 4 years later, with a Roman victory and another destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The Romans and Byzantines ruled Palestine for approximately 600 years.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

Conquest by the Arabs

Over the course of the Islamic conquest of Greater Syria, Muslim armies also reached Palestine. By order of the Caliph Umar (in the picture), Jerusalem was besieged and captured in the year 637 AD. In the following era of Muslim rule, various, mutually hostile and religiously divided rulers presided over the city. Jerusalem was often besieged and changed hands several times.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

The Crusades

From 1070 AD onward, the Muslim Seljuk rulers increasingly threatened the Christian world. Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade, which took Jerusalem in 1099 AD. Over a period of 200 years a total of nine crusades set out to conquer the city as it changed hands between Muslim and Christian rule. In 1244 AD the crusaders finally lost control of the city and it once again became Muslim.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

The Ottomans and the British

After the conquest of Egypt and Arabia by the Ottomans, Jerusalem became the seat of an Ottoman administrative district in 1535 AD. In its first decades of Ottoman rule, the city saw a clear revival. With a British victory over Ottoman troops in 1917 AD, Palestine fell under British rule. Jerusalem went to the British without a fight.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

The divided city

After World War II, the British gave up their Palestinian Mandate. The UN voted for a division of the country in order to create a home for the survivors of the Holocaust. Some Arab states then went to war against Israel and conquered part of Jerusalem. Until 1967, the city was divided into an Israeli west and a Jordanian east.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

East Jerusalem goes back to Israel

In 1967, Israel waged the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Israel took control of the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Israeli paratroopers gained access to the Old City and stood at the Wailing Wall for the first time since 1949. East Jerusalem is not officially annexed, but rather integrated into the administration.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

Muslim pilgrimage to Israel

Israel has not denied Muslims access to its holy places. The Temple Mount is under an autonomous Muslim administration; Muslims can enter, visit the Dome of the Rock and the adjacent Al-Aqsa mosque and pray there.

City of strife: Jerusalem's complex history

Unresolved status

Jerusalem remains to this day an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine. In 1980, Israel declared the whole city its "eternal and indivisible capital." After Jordan gave up its claim to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1988, the state of Palestine was proclaimed. Palestine also declares, in theory, Jerusalem as its capital.

Trump's decision earlier this month to overturn decades of US regional policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel sparked worldwide criticism. 

Almost all world powers accused the US president of undermining the long-held position that Jerusalem's future should be settled as part of future peace negotiations.

According to Katz's plans, the underground rail route would also travel close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, and the contested holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

Jerusalem rail plans faced with condemnation and quagmires

However, the planned railway construction could prove as divisive as Trump's recognition itself.

Wasel Abu Youssef, who sits on the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, accused the "Israeli extremist government" of trying to "race against time to impose facts on the ground in the city of Jerusalem."

Read more: Pope Francis calls for two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians at Urbi et Orbi

Related Subjects

The project would also involve excavating Jerusalem's politically sensitive Old City, a measure both Palestinian and Israeli officials have in the past vocally opposed. Last year, plans to convert an already excavated area by the Western Wall into a mixed-sex Jewish prayer section were halted after Israeli archeologists warned of irreparable damage to the ancient city.

Even with the transport minister's backing, any final railway — along with a "Trump Station" — would still require the approval from various governmental planning committees, as well as some $700 million (€587 million) in additional funding. A spokesperson for Israel's transport ministry declined to give any date for when a go-ahead could be given.

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Trump's Jerusalem plan: A capital mistake?

dm/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)