The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
US President Donald Trump will not be visiting the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem on Tuesday morning, according to a report by the Lebanon-based Almayadeen newspaper. The report said that Trump had decided to nix the visit to the holy Christian church, said to be built on the site where Jesus was born, because of the presence of an exhibit placed outside the church, expressing solidarity with Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli jails.
Like other aspects of Trump's visit to the region, confusion and uncertainty is the name of the game when it comes to his travel plans in the West Bank. The stop at the Church of Nativity was only tentatively booked on Trump's travel schedule and it is unclear whether the reason cited for the cancellation is in fact true.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, currently set to be held at Bethlehem's reception palace.
Other reports have said First Lady Melania Trump and the president's daughter Ivanka may travel to the church without him.
Sources involved in the planning told The Jerusalem Post
that there is a great deal of frustration among organizers, including American diplomats, over the visit's planning. The sources said inexperienced White House staff members are ignoring official Palestinian protocol, which requires foreign dignitaries to visit the Church of Nativity, choosing instead to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Scores of Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israel for terror related crimes are currently holding a hunger strike, bent on improving their prison conditions.
Meanwhile on Sunday, MK Anat Berko (Likud) said she saw the reported move as highlighting the president's support for Israel.
"I think he's for us," she said. "He isn't even going to the Church of the Nativity because of the security prisoners."