US diplomat angers Israel with Western Wall comments

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SDEROT, ISRAEL — Israel is asking the White House to explain why a U.S. diplomat said Jerusalem’s Western Wall is part of the occupied West Bank.

President Trump is slated to visit the holy site in Jerusalem, which Israel considers its indivisible capital, captured in the 1967 war.

In a planning meeting between Israeli and U.S. officials on Monday, an American diplomat said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be asked to join Trump’s “private visit” to the site, reported Israeli Channel 2.

According to the report, the diplomat told his counterparts that Israel does not have jurisdiction over the area, considered the holiest site in Judaism.

The Trump administration stopped short of denying the report but said the statement does not reflect U.S. policy, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

“These comments, if true, were not authorized by the White House,” said a White House spokesman to the newspaper. “They do not reflect the US position, and certainly not the president’s position.”

Israeli officials said they were shocked by the initial statement but are doubtful it reflected U.S. policy.

“The statement that the Western Wall is in an area in the West Bank was received with shock,” an official in Netanyahu’s office told Reuters.

“We are convinced that this statement is contrary to the policy of President Trump … Israel has made contact with the U.S. on this matter,” the official said.

The new U.S. ambassador to Israel broke protocol by visiting the Western Wall Monday, reported Reuters.

Ambassador David Friedman, an orthodox Jew, visited the site before presenting his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Trump will visit the country amid expectations he may try to revive the Middle East peace process after hosting Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in separate White House receptions.


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