Ahead of President Donald Trump's first overseas trip, the White House got caught up in an international spat with a major ally this week.
A senior member of the U.S. delegation helping to prepare President Donald Trump's visit to Israel next week denied a request that would have allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the Western Wall alongside Trump, saying that "it's not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank," according to the Times of Israel.
The Times of Israel confirmed the report with an official from Netanyahu's office who said that Israeli officials were "shocked" by the rejection.The Western Wall is a controversial site and is considered one of the holiest places in Judaism.
The U.S. delegation reportedly told the Israelis that Trump's trip to the wall would be a "private visit." But when pressed about a television crew providing coverage of the visit, one U.S. official blew up.
"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," he said, according to the Times of Israel. The comments reportedly outraged Israelis and quickly turned into a shouting match. An official said, "the comment that the Western Wall is part of the West Bank was received with astonishment."
The official said that Netanyahu understands, however, that the comment "does not reflect President Trump's policy."
But on Tuesday, Trump's national security advisor H.R. McMaster twice refused to say that the Western Wall is part of Israel. White House press secretary Sean Spicer was forced to later clean up the perhaps surprising distance between the White House and Israeli officials.
Asked about the issue, Spicer told journalists, “The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in Jewish faith. It’s clearly in Jerusalem. ”
“But there’s been — it’s an issues that’s had serious consideration. It will be a topic that’s going to be discussed during the President’s trip between the parties that he meets with,” Spicer said.
The news comes as it was also reported on Tuesday that Israel was the country who provided the U.S. with highly classified information regarding a plot by the Islamic State that Trump had revealed to Russian officials.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who faced strong opposition from Palestinian activists during his confirmation process, immediately visited the Western Wall upon his arrival on Monday, according to the Times of Israel. Friedman once called progressive-American Jews who question Israel's occupation of the West Bank "kapos" otherwise known as Jews who were imprisoned by Nazis that were forced to oversee administrative activities against their own people in concentration camps.