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Is the Western Wall part of Israel? Trump is a bit uncertain
White House: Western Wall comments ‘unauthorized,’ do not represent Trump’s
stance

Official who said Jews’ holiest prayer site is not part of Israel does ‘not
represent the position of US and certainly not of president’

By Eric Cortellessa May 15, 2017, 11:25 pm 32









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US President Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the press, before take-
off onboard Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, May 13, 2017.
(AFP PHOTO /

Brendan Smialowski)
US President Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the press, before take-
off onboard Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, May 13, 2017.
(AFP PHOTO /

Brendan Smialowski)



Writers


Eric Cortellessa

Eric Cortellessa Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times
of Israel.
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WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday said that comments from a US official
who told his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is not part of
Israel were



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“The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and
they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of
the president,”

a senior administration official told The Times of Israel.




and then sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not
your

territory. It’s part of the West Bank,” Channel 2 reported Monday.

The angry exchanges, according to the report, began when the Israeli team
working with the American delegation asked whether Netanyahu could accompany
Trump when he

visits the Western Wall, a key stop expected on his May 22-23 visit to
Israel and the West Bank.

This file photo taken on October 19, 2016 shows Jewish worshippers
performing the annual Cohanim prayer (priest`s blessing) at the Western Wall
in the Old City of

Jerusalem on October 19, 2016. (AFP/Gil COhen-Magen)
This file photo taken on October 19, 2016 shows Jewish worshippers
performing the annual Cohanim prayer (priest’s blessing) at the Western Wall
in the Old City of

Jerusalem on October 19, 2016. (AFP/Gil COhen-Magen)

No serving US president has ever visited the Western Wall, because US policy
has been that the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be resolved in
Israeli-Palestinian

negotiations.

The US team reportedly rejected the request for Netanyahu to join Trump,
saying it would be “a private visit” by the president and that he would go
on his own. The

Israelis then asked whether a TV crew providing live coverage of the Trump
visit could at least continue to film there.

At this point, the TV report said, a senior American official rudely
responded:

These comments led to vociferous protests by the Israelis, with the
discussion descending into shouting, and the Israelis reminding the US
officials that the Western

Wall and adjacent area “is territory holy to Israel.”

An official at the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the report, telling the
Times of Israel that Israeli officials were “shocked” by the comments and
have asked the

Trump administration about the incident.

The White House official did not say whether Netanyahu will be able to join
Trump when he visits the Western Wall on his trip.

New US ambassador to Israel David Friedman kisses the Western Wall in the
Old City of Jerusalem on May 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
New US ambassador to Israel David Friedman kisses the Western Wall in the
Old City of Jerusalem on May 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Ironically, the angry exchanges were reported soon after Trump’s ambassador
to Israel, David Friedman, arrived in the country and went immediately to
the Western Wall,

where he said he prayed for the president and for the success of next week’s
visit.

The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the ancient Temple
compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple
itself and thus the

Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer.

It was captured along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem in
the 1967 Six Day War, and then annexed by Israel as part of its united
capital — a move not

recognized internationally.

Trump’s visit to Israel will take place from May 22 to 23 — just before
Jerusalem Day — after he stops in Saudi Arabia and before he goes on to the
Vatican. He will

also travel to Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 summits on the final leg
of his trip.

While in the region, he will meet with both Netanyahu and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as part of his efforts to revive Israeli-
Palestinian peace

negotiations and strike “the ultimate deal,” as he has called it.

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel
Ngan)
US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel
Ngan)

Trump has already hosted both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the
White House. He’s also sent his Special Envoy for International Negotiations
Jason Greenblatt

to the Middle East to go on a “listening tour” and meet with various
stakeholders in the conflict.




Trump’s travel plans have spurred intense speculation over whether he would
use the occasion to follow through on his campaign pledge move the US
Embassy from Tel Aviv

to Jerusalem and recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital.

He seemingly backed off on this promise early in his presidency, but the
White House told reporters last week that Trump “has not made a decision yet
and is still

reviewing that.

Shortly after Trump’s visit to Israel, he will have to make a decision
whether to not to waive a congressional mandate — passed in a 1995 law — to
relocate the

embassy, but allowing the president to exercise a six-month delay on
national security grounds.

The most recent waiver, signed by former president Barack Obama, expires on
June 1.

The leak of the incident over Trump’s Western Wall visit ignited sharp
response from both Israelis and American Jewish leaders.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League said the Trump administration needed
to make clear its posture on the Western Wall’s status.




“The Kotel is 100% part of Israel & holy to Jews around world,” Jonathan
Greenblatt tweeted. “We strongly urge [the] White House to clarify
statement.”
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