The day after Christmas 2017, Israeli Minister of Transportation Yaacov Katz announced that, as a thank you for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a new train station in the Old City would be named for President Trump. Katz stated:
“The Kotel is the holiest place to the Jewish people, and I have decided to name the train station leading to it after US President Donald Trump, in recognition of his brave and historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
While the announcement no doubt fueled celebrations and joy among Trump supporters and backers of his Jerusalem move, and equally stoked even more outrage amongst those who opposed Trump’s decision, the realities of Jerusalem are such that the likelihood of the station ever being built, let alone officially dedicated to Trump, are infinitesimally small. The planned station is part of an audacious, stunningly unrealistic plan to connect the Old City’s Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall plaza to the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem express train line (currently under construction).
Given that the planned station would be connected to the line via a tunnel, and the route of that tunnel would have to pass under the Old City – i.e., through what is both one of the most contentious and richest archeological fields in the world, and one whose surface is home to the densest population concentration in all of Jerusalem, if not all of Israel – the likelihood of this tunnel ever being dug and the station ever being constructed is remote indeed.
That said, there is no room for complacency. A year or so ago it appeared highly unlikely that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel outside the framework of permanent status negotiations. Under current circumstances – a defiant and unshackled Netanyahu taking full advantage of an administration that will not rein him in – such appraisals as so what may or may not be “remote” must be constantly challenged and updated.