Israel top court approves Temple Mount cable car over objections from Palestinians, environmentalists

By | May 17, 2022

The Israeli Supreme Court Sunday ruled in favor of the Israeli government’s planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling has been met with excitement by proponents such as Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project would, “reduce air pollution in the area, solve the transport and parking distress and allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City.” However, the project has also been met with condemnation by many groups including city planners and architects, Palestinian activist groups, Karaite Jews (a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car’s path), and environmental groups.

Palestinian groups have criticized the proposed path since it would travel over East Jerusalem, an area originally granted to Palestinians in 1949 before it was occupied by Israel in 1967 in the Arab-Israeli War. Ir-Amim, a pro-Palestinian group, has stated “[f]olks will hop in in WJ [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they’re cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians.”

Ir-Amim has also alleged the cable car project is at least partially funded by the Elad Foundation (also called the Ir David Foundation). The Elad Foundation has funded controversial settlement efforts in Silwan, a primarily Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, using a property law concept called Absentee Property Rights. Elad has been tied to Russian Oligarch, Roman Abramovich, in a leak of bank documents called the FinCEN files.

The Municipality of Jerusalem has responded to criticism of the project, stating:

The cable car…will transport 3,000 passengers per hour in each direction at 21 km/h. This significant infrastructure project, unlike any other in the world, will raise the level of public transport service, making it more efficient and less crowded for one of the capital’s most trafficked areas, and make the Old City’s religious and historic sites accessible for people with disabilities…It is a green and environmentally friendly means of transportation, which will reduce noise, air pollution, traffic of public and private vehicles, and will preserve the special topography of the southern basin of the Old City.

Efforts to stop the plan are expected to continue with groups such as Emek Shaveh, an archeological non-profit, releasing social media campaigns continuing to criticize the plan and a coalition of various organizations who oppose the plan releasing a policy paper.