Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US Ambassador David Friedman for making a trip to the Western Wall his first stop in Israel.
“I know that you visited the Western Wall. We deeply appreciate that. It was a powerful act of solidarity," Netanyahu told Friedman as they met in his office on Tuesday, shortly after the Ambassador presented his credential to President Reuven Rivlin.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome you to our eternal capital,” Netanyahu added.
Friedman responded, “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.”
He spoke in the middle of a now very public argument between Israel and the United States over whether the US considers the Western Wall to be part of Israel. Friedman cast that diplomatic conundrum aside, when he prayed and kissed the wall on Monday.
Netanyahu wants to underscore that message by publicly appearing with US President Donald Trump at the Western Wall next week. The advance team for Trump’s visit is trying to downplay that part of the president’s itinerary by preparing a private visit to the Western Wall, without the Government Press Office or Netanyahu.
If Trump were to visit the Western Wall, he would be the first president to do so while in office.
While Congress recognizes that Western Jerusalem is part of Israel, under past administrations the White House and the State Department have in the past been loath to follow suit.
The Western Wall’s location over the pre-1967 lines, in eastern Jerusalem, makes such a visit tricky, even though the US recognizes Judaism’s ties to its holiest site, the Temple Mount and the adjacent Western Wall.
Netanyahu told Friedman, “We want to work with you and with the president in the coming years to strengthen our eternal capital.”
Rivlin told Friedman, “It’s time for the whole world to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of the state of Israel, de-facto and only de-jure,” Rivlin said.