Israel 'shocked' over Trump aide's Western Wall comments

Jerome Frank
May 18, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House.

Mr. Trump plans to pray at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, on a trip that includes stops in Saudi Arabia and Vatican City in Rome, said National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

Israeli TV reported that during a preparatory meeting between USA and Israeli officials, the Israelis were told that Trump's visit to the West Wall was a private visit and that Israel had no mandate in the region and that it was not welcome to accompany Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Trump there.

Israel complained that a USA representative rejected allowing Israel's prime minister to join Trump for a visit to the Western Wall because it isn't in Israeli territory.

However, the worldwide community, including the United States, does not recognize Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek as the capital of a future independent state.

As president, Trump has said he'd like to try to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, calling it "the ultimate deal".

The White House distanced itself from the alleged comments, saying in statements to US media that they did not reflect the views of the administration. An official, later identified by Israel's Channel 2 as David Berns, political counselor at the US consulate in Jerusalem, reportedly snapped, "This isn't your territory".

"I know that they are trying to fix that and get that taken care of, we have always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel", Haley said.

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McMaster's brief comment appeared to be consistent with long-standing USA policy that the status of Jerusalem is an issue to be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Western Wall, the most sacred site for Jews, resides along the foot of the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to move the "American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem".

He also congratulated Friedman for visiting the Western Wall on Monday, saying "it was a strong gesture of solidarity". "We discussed the friendship between the two countries and I told him that the U.S. Embassy -- like all embassies -- should be moved to Jerusalem".

"Obviously, I believe that the capital should be in Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem", Nikki Haley said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Tuesday.

An arms deal is to be announced during the trip in which Saudi Arabia will purchase $100 billion in USA arms in a deal that could lead to purchases of $300 billion over 10 years to help Riyadh counter Iran in the region, the official said.

Trump has said that he would like to broker an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, often referring to it as "the ultimate deal".

"We look forward to receiving President Trump and we want to work with you and with the president these coming years to strengthen our great alliance". He said Israel must oppose attempts to establish a Palestinian state and insist on Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem "forever".

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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