Trump administration wavers on location of Western Wall

Trump administration wavers on location of Western Wall

As Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, it remained unclear whether his administration was changing long-standing US policy by declaring the wall's location to be Israel, versus Jerusalem.

Heading to Israel on the second stop in the president's nine-day tour of the Middle East and Europe, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed questions over whether the administration is considering a change in policy, after top officials offered conflicting views.

"The wall is part of Jerusalem," he said, declaring an undeniable fact accepted by all sides.

He did not elaborate on the more delicate question: whether the administration would change US policy over the status of Jerusalem.

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

His wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner accompanied him.

Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism to marry Mr Kushner, an orthodox Jew.

Mr Trump pressed his right hand against the wall and closed his eyes, seemingly in prayer.

He called it a "great honour" to be the first sitting president to visit the holy site.

Israel captured the Old City, home to important Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious sites, along with the rest of east Jerusalem in the 1967 war.

The US has never recognised Israeli sovereignty over territory occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem.

Trump administration wavers on location of Western Wall

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

Israel, which previously controlled west Jerusalem, claims all of the city as its eternal capital and this week is celebrating the 50th anniversary of what it calls the city's "unification".

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Given the competing claims, the US says the city's fate must be worked out through negotiations and like most countries, it maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

During the campaign, Mr Trump pledged to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but has since walked back on that promise.

The latest controversy stemmed from a dust-up last week between American and Israeli officials planning for Mr Trump's visit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked to join Mr Trump on his visit of the Western Wall, but was rebuffed.

An Israeli TV station quoted an American as telling the Israelis that the wall is not in Israeli territory, enraging Mr Trump's Israeli hosts.

The dispute deepened the following day when Mr Trump's national security adviser, HR McMaster, declined to say whether the Western Wall is in Israel, dismissing the question as "a policy decision" that he would not answer.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, later asked about Mr McMaster's comments, said: "It's clearly in Jerusalem."

He said the issue would be discussed during Mr Trump's trip.

However, hours later Nikki Haley, Mr Trump's UN ambassador, asserted that the wall is part of Israel.

"I don't know what the policy of the administration is, but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how, you know, we've always seen it and that's how we should pursue it," she told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

AP

More on this topic

‘See you at the polls’: Trump and Pelosi in war of words‘See you at the polls’: Trump and Pelosi in war of words

Twitter: Accounts of world leaders ‘not entirely’ above the rulesTwitter: Accounts of world leaders ‘not entirely’ above the rules

Donald Trump tells Harry Dunn’s parents that US woman will not return to UKDonald Trump tells Harry Dunn’s parents that US woman will not return to UK

Trump’s lawyer Giuliani will not comply with impeachment subpoenaTrump’s lawyer Giuliani will not comply with impeachment subpoena

More in this Section

Boris Johnson heads for crunch EU summit as Brexit deal talks continueBoris Johnson heads for crunch EU summit as Brexit deal talks continue

Obama endorses Trudeau in unprecedented moveObama endorses Trudeau in unprecedented move

‘See you at the polls’: Trump and Pelosi in war of words‘See you at the polls’: Trump and Pelosi in war of words

Syrian forces enter key border town, blocking Turkish plansSyrian forces enter key border town, blocking Turkish plans


Lifestyle

Food news with Joe McNamee.The Menu: All the food news of the week

Though the Killarney tourism sector has been at it for the bones of 150 years or more, operating with an innate skill and efficiency that is compelling to observe, its food offering has tended to play it safe in the teeth of a largely conservative visiting clientele, top-heavy with ageing Americans.Restaurant Review: Mallarkey, Killarney

We know porridge is one of the best ways to start the day but being virtuous day in, day out can be boring.The Shape I'm In: Food blogger Indy Power

Timmy Creed is an actor and writer from Bishopstown in Cork.A Question of Taste: Timmy Creed

More From The Irish Examiner