Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Israel wants White House to explain United States official's Western Wall comment


A senior member of the USA delegation for President Donald Trump's visit to Israel next week reportedly angered Israeli officials when he said the Western Wall was "part of the West Bank".

U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson suggested on Sunday that moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv might not impact the Trump's peace-making efforts.

Ahead of Trump's forthcoming trip to Israel - sandwiched between visits to Saudi Arabia and Rome - Tillerson told NBC's "Meet The Press" that the president was seeking to understand, from listening to all interested parties in the region, what impact moving the embassy would have, in the context of hopes to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Reported remarks by a Trump administration official rejecting Israel's claim to the Western Wall were "unauthorized" and do not represent the position of President Donald Trump, the White House said. Palestinians and most of the global community regard all or part of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

So far, the worldwide community does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and not a single foreign country has based their embassies in Jerusalem.

Top officials at the State Department, Department of Defense and the USA intelligence community are urging the White House not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, warning that such a decision would be harmful to the peace process and carry broader regional risks, a senior administration official and several U.S. officials told CNN.

Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump promised to relocate the USA embassy as one of his campaign pledges.

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It seems that the official was prompted to make the statement after members of Netanyahu's team asked if Netanyahu could join Trump on the visit to the Western Wall and whether Israeli photographers could document the event, to which the Americans replied that the Western Wall was a "disputed territory".

Channel 2 reports, as noted by the Times of Israel, that a Trump aide then angrily told Israelis that the Western Wall was part of the West Bank, which is governed in part by the State of Palestine.

Immediately after landing in Tel Aviv, Friedman traveled to Jerusalem and visited the Western Wall, praying for the health of his family and for the success of President Trump.

Trump pledged during his presidential campaign to relocate the embassy, telling the pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March 2016 that he wanted to "move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem".

Worshipers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Jan. 17, 2017.

Friedman, who owns an apartment in Jerusalem, is expected to live in the US ambassador's official residence in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herziliya.

He also surrounded himself with a core of advisers with strong ties to the West Bank settlement movement, including his ambassador, David Friedman.

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