Shock over Western Wall
US diplo: It’s not in Israel
A diplomatic spat erupted between the United States and Israel days before President Trump’s planned visit after an American official declared that the Western Wall — the holiest site in Judaism — is not part of the country.
An Israeli team that joined US officials on a scouting trip Monday requested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompany Trump and his family to the site.
“This isn’t your territory. This is in the West Bank. It is a private visit by the president, and it’s not your business,” responded one US official, according to the Times of Israel.
Israel’s Channel 2 identified the official as David Berns, the political counselor at the US Consulate in Jerusalem, and said he was accompanied by economic adviser Jonathan Shrier, who also was in- volved in the row.
Netanyahu’s office expressed shock at the incendiary statement and sought a clarification from Washington because Trump has opposed a UN Security Council resolution that rejected Israeli rights in Jerusalem,
“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,” the White House told the Israeli paper.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that the Western Wall is “clearly in Jerusalem.”
The brouhaha coincided with the arrival of Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who promptly visited the Western Wall to pray for a successful visit by the president.
“We’re a bit tired, but we wanted to come straight to the holiest place in the entire Jewish world, the ‘ Kotel Hama’ar
avi,’ the Western Wall,” said Friedman, an Orthodox Jew.
Friedman then met Netanyahu, who welcomed him to “Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
The Channel 2 report said that Berns’ job might be in jeopardy because the incident embarrassed the White House ahead of Trump’s 24-hour visit, which starts Monday.
Israel captured the Old City and the rest of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967.
The international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek as the capital of a future independent state.
Trump will be the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said “no Israeli leaders” would be joining him.