Trump aide angrily told Netanyahu aides that Western Wall is NOT in Israeli Territory
Well this has diplomatic mess written all over it. And it’s not only in print at the Times of Israel, but they say it was reported on Israeli television station Channel 2 first:
TIMES OF ISRAEL – In a bitter diplomatic incident, a senior member of the US delegation making preparations for Donald Trump’s visit to Israel next week angrily rejected a request that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompany the president when he visits the Western Wall, and then sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank,” Israeli television reported on Monday night.
An official at the Prime Minister’s Office, apparently confirming the report, told Channel 2 that Israel has asked the Trump administration about the incident, and said that Netanyahu is certain that the comment does not reflect President Trump’s policy.
The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the ancient Temple compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple itself and thus the Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer. It was captured along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and annexed by Israel as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally.
According to the Channel 2 report, the angry exchanges began when the Israeli team working with the American delegation asked whether Netanyahu could accompany Trump when he visits the Western Wall, a key expected stop on his May 22-23 visit to Israel and the West Bank. No serving US president has ever visited the Western Wall, because US policy has been that the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be resolved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The US delegation reportedly rejected the request for Netanyahu to join the visit, saying it would be “a private visit” by the president and that he would go on his own. The Israelis then asked whether a TV crew providing live coverage of the Trump visit could at least continue to film here there.
At this point, the TV report said, a senior American official rudely responded: “What are you talking about? It’s none of your business. It’s not even part of your responsibility. It’s not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”
These comments led to vociferous protests by the Israelis, with the discussion descending into shouting, and the Israelis reminding the US team that the Western Wall and adjacent area “is territory holy to Israel.”
In a statement reported by Channel 2, an official at the Prime Minister’s Office said that “the comment that the Western Wall is part of the West Bank was received with astonishment” but that “Israel is certain that the comment contradicts President Trump’s policy as expressed in his fierce opposition to the latest UN Security Council resolution” — a reference to UNSC Resolution 2334 from last December, which rejected Israeli rights in Jerusalem and which Trump publicly opposed. “Israel has asked the US about this,” the PMO official said.
I don’t know if this is true or not but it strikes me as believable, considering how Trump is playing the role of centrist when it comes to Israel/Palestine. I’m not saying this reflects his own policy, however I’ve no doubt that among Kushner and his aides there are some of the more pro-Palestinian variety.
Also they say that an official from Netanyahu’s office is basically confirming the report.
So I guess we’ll see what comes of this.