Israel demands explanation from White House after spat over Trump trip

Israel wants the White House to explain why a United States diplomat preparing President Donald Trump's visit to Jerusalem said Judaism's Holy Western Wall in the east side of the city is part of the occupied West Bank, an Israeli official said on Monday.

It maintained that while "the comment that the Western Wall is part of the West Bank was received with astonishment", the Israeli government "is certain that the comment contradicts President Trump's policy as expressed in his fierce opposition to the latest UN Security Council resolution", which criticized the Israeli presence in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In an unprecedented move on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published meeting notes from his visit with Trump at the White House in February, in order to affirm that he tried to convince Trump to relocate the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

There has been speculation that Trump would visit the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, during his Israeli trip, which would make him the first sitting U.S. president to do so.

The official allegedly went on to say: "This is not your territory but rather part of the West Bank".

The Israeli Prime Minister's office said it was shocked by the comments and said it had asked the United States to explain what was meant by them.

The reaction to Trump's reported visit to the site shows why sitting USA presidents have stayed away from the Western Wall.

The new USA ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, departed from diplomatic protocol by visiting the Western Wall on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Office denied the claim on Monday evening, issuing a statement that said: "The things published on Fox News are a lie".

Adding to this, on Thursday, 15 Iyar, Mr. Netanyahu called on all nations to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, Israel's eternal capital.

The trip will also be colored by questions over the status of the US Embassy in Israel, which Trump promised to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his campaign.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview to NBC: "The president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding what such a move, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have". Every President since then - Republican and Democrat - has waived the embassy move every six months, citing national security concerns.

Israel captured the Old City, along with the rest of east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. "It will advance it by correcting a historic injustice and by smashing the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel".

According to the report, top USA officials close to the president warned that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could have broad regional risks, echoing recommendations from leaders in the region, including Jordan's King Abdullah who warned Trump that an embassy move would have a negative impact on the peace process.

A bankruptcy lawyer by profession, Friedman has no previous diplomatic experience.

  • Leroy Wright