Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Israel Demands Explanation of US Diplomat's 'Western Wall' Comment


Since Mr Trump took office in January, the Israeli far-right has called on the prime minister to profit from the incoming Republican administration's pro-Israel bent by pressing issues on which previous U.S. presidents would not be budged, such as the location of the USA embassy.

In an unprecedented move on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published meeting notes from his visit with Trump at the White House in February, in order to affirm that he tried to convince Trump to relocate the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "It will advance it by righting an historical wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel".

Despite those warnings, some of Trump's top advisers are urging him to make good on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announce plans to move the embassy there during his visit next week, and Trump has yet to reach a decision, two White House officials confirmed.

While Trump has not taken any action on his pledge to move the embassy so far, the Palestinian leadership fiercely opposes any such effort, and the worldwide community has warned that it could spark unrest.

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Mr Trump promised to move the embassy during his campaign but since taking office has softened his stance on the issue after meeting Arab leaders whose support he wants to enlist as part of a regional Israel-Palestinian peace deal.

Although the battle against terrorist groups and what Tillerson called "Iran's destabilizing activities in the region" are expected to be the main focus, given the invitation list Trump will likely also hear strong-held views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and Jerusalem in particular.

A source within the Palestine Liberation Organization tells Newsweek, under condition of anonymity, that President Trump will meet President Abbas in Bethlehem on May 23.

The US president vowed during his election campaign to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that would anger Palestinians and the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.

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The dispute arose when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the president was being "very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process".

The Prime Minister's Office also released a summary of a meeting between Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn on 16 January.

The Western Wall is revered as the holiest site where Jews can pray, and according to Channel 2 TV, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked to join Trump. Israel has built settlements on war-won lands, now home to 600,000 Israelis.

Netanyahu told Friedman his immediate visit to the Western Wall was "a strong gesture of solidarity". Additionally, he all but ignores the fact that the Palestinian territories are governed by terrorists and terror-supporting regimes, while Israel is a free state and one of the few stable, reliable American allies in the Middle East.

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