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White House: Trump staffer's Western Wall comment does not reflect administration policy

19 May 2017, 09:41 | Winifred Adams

Binyamin Netanyahu insisted on Monday that he had asked President Donald Trump to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, highlighting a potentially explosive point of contention with the Americans just a week before the USA president is due to make his first visit to Israel.

President Donald Trump is considering how moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would affect the peace process, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The remark that the Western Wall "is not your territory, it's part of the West Bank" reportedly arose during conversations between an advance team planning Trump's visit to Israel next week and officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

Israel's position is that all embassies should be in its capital, Jerusalem, but the global community has maintained that the status of the city should only be decided when there is a peace treaty with the Palestinians, who insist that the eastern half of Jerusalem should be their capital.

The U.S. passed a law in 1995 mandating the relocation of its embassy, but since then every U.S. president has signed a six-month waiver delaying the move - citing concerns over national security.

Moving the embassy would be deeply controversial since Palestinians contest Israel's right to the city and want to establish the capital of a future independent state there - a demand Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chairman Mahmoud Abbas reiterated at his March 3 Oval Office meeting with Trump.

Donald Trump is set to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders nearly back-to-back on his first foreign trip as U.S. President.

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Israeli officials appear to be growing increasingly nervous over Trump's visit, when he is expected to make an attempt at relaunching long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

According to Israel's Channel 2 News, a member of the USA delegation preparing for Trump's visit made the comment about the wall when Israeli officials suggested a photographer shoot video of the President during a proposed visit to the site.

As the Times of Israel notes, the visit "would likely be interpreted by some as akin to an American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem".

Friedman is an orthodox Jew who has raised funds for a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Besides his one-day stay in Israel, President Trump will also visit Saudi Arabia for his first overseas visit since his inauguration in January.

Tillerson linked Trump's deliberations directly with his aspiration to broker peace in the Middle East.

Now no country has an embassy in Jerusalem, while 86 nations maintain consulates in Tel Aviv.



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