What’s Behind the White House’s Western Wall Dodge

'That sounds like a policy decision,' National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday to a reporter

by Leah Jessen | Updated 17 May 2017 at 8:46 AM

President Donald Trump will soon embark on a trip to the Holy Land.

In preparation for his trip to Israel on May 22 and 23, a U.S. official allegedly told Israelis that the Western Wall site is not in their jurisdiction, according to reports.

“The president’s intention is to visit these religions’ sites to highlight the need for unity among three of the world’s great religions.”

The Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall and the Kotel) lies in the Old City of Jerusalem. The site is “the last remnant of the ancient Jewish Second Temple, and the closest that Jews can get to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism,” as Business Insider and other news organizations have noted.

The area has been the subject of great contention over the years; the jurisdiction of the land has been disputed. The site is sacred in the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths.

“The wall sits at the base of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the current site of both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque,” the Independent Journal Review reported. “Due to status quo agreements with the Arab world to avoid conflict, Jews are unable to pray on the Temple Mount, so they pray at the base of the Western Wall instead.”

Related: Leftist Groups Up in Arms Over Trump’s Religious Executive Order

So what does the Trump administration believe about the Western Wall: Is it part of Israel?

“That sounds like a policy decision,” Trump administration National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said at the White House press briefing on Tuesday when asked by reporters.

Trump is scheduled to visit the Western Wall on his first foreign trip as commander-in-chief. "The president's intention is to visit these religions' sites to highlight the need for unity among three of the world's great religions," McMaster said.

McMaster's comments "mark a concerning shift in the policy of this administration," U.S. Representative Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), said in a statement Tuesday.

"There is no question that both geographically and historically the Western Wall has been part of the state of Israel," Meadows said. "As one of Israel's closest allies, the United States has an obligation to stand by them and defend their rightful claim to one of the holiest sites in the nation of Israel."

The Israelis and Palestinians have engaged in ongoing conflict over the control of Jerusalem.

Related: Five Things You Didn't Know About Callista Gingrich 

Another government official commented Tuesday and noted her position on the Western Wall’s jurisdiction.

“We’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The Brody File.”

“I don’t know what the policy of the administration is but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it,” Haley told The Brody File.

"Israel captured the Old City, along with the rest of east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. It considers the entire city to be its eternal capital and next week is set to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of what it calls the unification of Jerusalem," Fox News reported. "However, the international community does not recognize Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek as the capital of a future independent state."

President Trump plans to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas while on his trip.

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