JERUSALEM, Israel – A diplomatic spat appeared to erupt between U.S. and Israeli officials over President Trump's visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City just days before he's due in the region.
Many were astonished to learn that a U.S. official said the Western Wall isn't part of Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to accompany President Trump to the Western Wall when he visits next week. But apparently the request was denied and according to Israeli television, a U.S. official said the Western Wall "is not your territory, but part of the West Bank."
The controversy is over the Western Wall, or Kotel. For thousands of years, Jewish people from around the world have come to pray at the wall. It's the closest they have to praying at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
In December, the Obama administration failed to veto a U.N. resolution that said Israel had "no validity" in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in the eastern sector of Jerusalem. But Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has stood firm against anti-Israel sentiments at the U.N.
To make matters more conflicted, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, arrived on Monday to take up his post. Friedman headed straight to the Western Wall to pray from the airport, calling it "the holiest place in the entire Jewish world."
One focal point of President Trump's visit next week is bound to be Jerusalem.
He's arriving as Israel prepares to celebrate Israel's victory and a reunited Jerusalem following the Six-Day War.
Israelis hope that Trump will honor his campaign promise either to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's united capital or announce a move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
On Monday, Fox News foreign correspondent Connor Powell threw more fuel on the fire when he tweeted, "Everyone I've spoken to in DC that has been briefed on the Jerusalem Embassy move says Netanyahu told Trump not to move the embassy at this time."
The prime minister's office responded sharply, saying the Fox News claims are false.
Many Israelis expected the Trump visit would bolster Israel's position on Jerusalem and the peace talks. Now, some are anxious about what may happen next week.