US spat erupts ahead of Trump visit to region

Posted May 18, 2017

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler speaks at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, May 15, 2017. Among the issues of importance to the casino mogul and owner of the pro-Netanyahu daily paper in Israel, Israel Hayom, are moving the USA embassy to Jerusalem, and a crackdown on online gambling. "It makes many of us - who are hoping for a change in U.S. -Israel relations - nervous", Foxman, the current Director of Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, told Jewish Insider "I can not believe that the traditionally pro-Palestinian functionaries in the American Consulate in Jerusalem are making the decisions on the Kotel and Jerusalem".

At this stage, he will work out of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and will live in the ambassador's residence in Herzliya.

And as Netanyahu's team reeled from the shocking and negative remarks that were reportedly made by the US official today, it also faced another worrying report coming from a senior Fox news correspondent who took to social media to claim earlier in the day that the premier had asked US President Donald Trump to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv and not relocate it to Israel's capital.

Israel angrily demanded an explanation from the White House, casting a cloud over the highly anticipated visit by the new president, which is being greeted with a mixture of excitement and nervousness by Israeli officials.

Trump's team had already planned to have Trump pay a visit to the wall, but on his own rather than as an official diplomatic act.

A White House spokesperson told Jewish Insider, "The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the President".

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The official reportedly told Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is "not your territory". The Israelis then asked whether a TV crew providing live coverage of the Trump visit could at least continue to film here there.

Rivlin called on the "whole world to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of the state of Israel". "On the contrary, it would advance it by correcting an historical injustice and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel".

Prior administrations of both parties have chosen to ignore a 1995 Republican-backed law ordering the embassy's move in accordance with official State Department policy that the status of East Jerusalem must be determined by peaceful negotiations. They estimate that during his May 20 visit to the region, Trump will balance his pro-Israel attitude with a rapprochement to some of the Arab positions.

Palestinians were disappointed when Trump failed to mention a two-state solution with Abbas at the White House on May 3. Moving the embassy would likely indicate a change in U.S. policy towards recognizing Israel's claim to a united Jerusalem.

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

The new United States ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, departed from diplomatic protocol by visiting the Western Wall on Monday.