'I never mentioned the word or the name Israel' to Russians

Mr Trump's trip also comes days after it was reported that the president had leaked to Russia's foreign minister classified intelligence information said to have come from an Israeli source.

For this reason, USA officials refuse to say that the wall is part of Israel.

Netanyahu thanked Trump for what he called a "powerful expression" of support for Israel, noting that he is the first US president to make Israel a stop on his first trip overseas.

Trump blurted out a defense of his conduct in the May 10 meeting with the diplomats when a US reporter asked Netanyahu at a photo session whether the Israeli prime minister was concerned about sharing sensitive intelligence with the U.S.

Mr Trump said the story is another one the news media has gotten wrong.

He is on a nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe that ends on Saturday after visits to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily. The Trump administration rejected a request from the Palestinians to push for an Israeli settlement freeze, but promised to sort out the issue during peace negotiations, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity. He didn't elaborate on the more delicate question: whether the administration would change USA policy over the status of Jerusalem.

Though Washington and Jerusalem have publicly brushed aside reports of the incident, behind the scenes top Israeli defense officials are said to be seething and concerned by the president's actions. The U.S. has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over territory occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem.

Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are observant Jews, joined the president and his wife.

The president arrived at the wall Monday afternoon, donning a yarmulke, as is the tradition at Jewish holy sites.

Trump has also backed off of a vow made during his presidential campaign to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said Trump's goal for now is simply "to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace". Palestinians and most of the global community consider East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City, as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state. In fact, his national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Trump was never briefed on the source.

The White House tried to play down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting the visit as symbolic.

But hours later, Nikki Haley, Trump's United Nations ambassador, asserted that the wall is part of Israel.

  • Salvatore Jensen