26 May, Saturday

US 'refuses' to let Benjamin Netanyahu accompany Donald Trump to Western Wall


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US President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly refused to allow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accompany him to to one of the holiest Jewish sites in the region during a visit next week. 
While Mr Trump is set to become the first serving US president to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Mr Netanyahu will not be present, the White House said on Tuesday.
The two leaders will meet for talks and dinner but the US president will visit the place of prayer accompanied by the Western Wall’s rabbi before going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Holocaust Museum and the Israel museum, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters. 
Israel’s Channel 2 news reported Monday that the Israeli authorities had asked whether Mr Netanyahu could accompany the president and whether Israeli news would be allowed to film there, but were rudely told by a member of the US consulate in Jerusalem: “What are you talking about? It’s none of your business. It’s not even part of your responsibility. It’s not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”
The Western Wall runs along the perimeter of one side of Jerusalem’s holy Temple Mount, as it is known in Judaism, or Haram al-Sharif, as it is called in Islam.  
The neighbouring al-Aqsa mosque compound is currently reserved for and administered by Muslims, but Jewish worshippers have the right to visit and pray at the Wall. 
“The comments about the Western Wall were not authorised communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president,” a senior administration official later clarified to the The Times of Israel.
In Tuesday’s White House briefing Mr McMaster refused to clarify whether the administration considers the Western Wall to be a part of Israel or not. 
“The president’s intention is to visit these religious sites to highlight the need for unity among three of the world’s great religions, unity in confronting a very grave threat to all of civilisation, and unity in embracing an agenda of tolerance,” he said. 
Mr Trump is also due to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank - their second meeting in the space of a month.
Benjamin Netanyahu invited his American counterpart to visit following his own trip to Washington DC in February.
The new US president has repeatedly stressed that a lasting peace deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the top goals of his administration. 
His upcoming trip to the Vatican, Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia - Mr Trump’s first as president - is being overshadowed by accusations that he shared classified information concerning an Isis plot with visiting Russian diplomats last week. 
Several foreign intelligence agencies have condemned the reports, which they say pose a risk for future intel gathering and sharing. German politician Burkhard Lischka told the AP it would be “highly worrying” if the story was true, adding such behaviour would make Mr Trump “a security risk for the entire world".
The New York Times and NBC news reported that Israel was the intelligence partner compromised in the alleged leak. 
In a statement on Tuesday, Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer reaffirmed that Israel has full confidence in its intelligence-sharing relationship with the US. 


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