U.S. President Donald Trump will visit Jewish and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the White House has announced amid a controversy involving a U.S. diplomat's comments that the wall was in West Bank territory.
On May 15, U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster announced that Trump will offer a prayer at the Western Wall and will drop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site Christians believe is the location of Jesus' tomb. He will first visit Saudi Arabia before coming to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will then see Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Reuters details.
Prior to the announcement, Israel's Channel 2 reported that a U.S. official told Israeli officials that Netanyahu was not welcome to join Trump during the trip to the wall because the area was part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While Israel thinks of Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not honor this claim.
On May 16, a White House official told Reuters that the controversial West Bank comments were not authorized by the U.S. government, and that they do not reflect both the position of the U.S. and of Trump.
When asked on whether Trump considers the Western Wall as a part of Israel's territory, McMaster only said the idea "sounds like a policy decision."
Meanwhile, ABC News reports that Trump's upcoming visit to Jerusalem has stirred apprehension after news surfaced that the U.S. President had shared highly classified Israeli information with Russia. The move has reportedly raised concern that Trump may be too unpredictable.
U.S. officials had confirmed on May 17 that Trump had relayed highly classified intel on the Islamic State with Russian officials at the White House. Considering that the information came from Israel and that the revelation was not authorized by the nation, there were concerns that the move could endanger an important Israeli asset.
Israel, on the other hand, did not confirm that the highly classified intel came from them. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, however, sent a Twitter statement affirming his country's "meaningful" security ties with the U.S. and said their strong relationship will continue.