Israel’s transport minister has said he was pushing ahead with controversial plans to build a high-speed train network under the Old City in Jerusalem and declared its main station would be named after Donald Trump.
Yisrael Katz’s proposal would involve digging two underground stations and excavating more than two miles of tunnel – ending up at the Western Wall, an ancient holy site revered in Judaism.
The project would extend the soon-to-open multi-billion-pound rail line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and help ferry the some 11 million tourists and worshippers a year to the wall.
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.
The same area is also home to the al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the oldest in Islam. Palestinians fear any underground work could see the structure compromised.
Similar excavations by Israel have sparked violent Palestinian protests in the past.
The project is estimated to cost more than $700 million (£522m) and, if approved, would take four years to complete.
Mr 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.
Click Here: cd universidad catolica
His office said the minister advanced the plan in a recent meeting with Israel Railways executives and declared it a national priority, meaning construction on the line would be expedited and started within the next year.
Mr Katz, known as “The Bulldzoer” for his highly ambitious construction projects, 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 the US president as thanks for his "for his brave and historic decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital" earlier this month.
Mr Trump gave the Israelis’ claim to Jerusalem a major boost after declaring the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city.
The declaration sparked protests around the Muslim world, which turned violent in the Palestinian territories and led to the deaths of several demonstrators.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.
The UN General Assembly last week rejected Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reaffirming that the city’s status should be agreed between Israelis and Palestinians through direct negotiations.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said America could no longer be a fair broker in the peace process.
Ikrema Sabri, a senior Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, denounced the planned train line extension, saying that Palestinians would not accept "any change or act in the occupied territories."
He said that "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 recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee, said: "The Israeli extremist government is simply trying to race against time to impose facts on the ground in the city of Jerusalem.”