President Trump’s national security advisor dodged questions Tuesday about whether east Jerusalem’s Western Wall was in Israeli territory, exposing a potential rift with the Jewish state ahead of the president’s planned visit to the holy site.
The flap emerged amid a New York Times report that Israel, one of America’s closest allies, was the source of intelligence Mr. Trump divulged last week in a meeting with Russian diplomats.
That would be a major diplomatic wrinkle for Mr. Trump to straighten out during the visit, given Russia is allied with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran.
The White House denied any classified information was passed to the Russians. Israeli officials downplayed concerns, telling the newspaper they have “full confidence” in continued intelligence sharing between the two countries.
Mr. Trump plans to pray at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, on a trip that includes stops in Saudi Arabia and Vatican City in Rome, said National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
When a reporter asked if the wall was in Israeli, Mr. McMaster said: “That sounds like a policy decision.”
It was enough to keep the controversy going. Jewish groups in the .S. voiced concern about Mr. Trump’s commitment to Israel.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer later attempted to clean up the mess, saying the Western Wall is “one of holiest sites in the Jewish state” and “clearly in Jerusalem.”
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Isreal requested to accompany Mr. Trump to the wall but was rebuffed by a Trump officials who said the site is “not your territory,” according to Israeli news reports.
The White House said the comment did not represent the president’s position.
Israel recaptured east Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount in the Old City, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians have demanded east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Sovereignty over the city remains a striking point in peace talks.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
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