PM Netanyahu and President Trump.
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
A dramatic rift was created between Washington and Jerusalem as US President Donald Trump's team as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's team both issued harsh statements on Monday evening less than a week prior to the president's much-expected visit to Israel.
The drama unfolded when a senior White House official said that the Western Wall was part of the West Bank and not part of Israel's territory, as Channel 2 reported on Monday.
"The Western Wall is not in your territory," the official reportedly said.
It seems that the official was prompted to make the statement after members of Netanyahu's team asked if Netanyahu could join Trump on the visit to the Western Wall and whether Israeli photographers could document the event, to which the Americans replied that the Western Wall was a "disputed territory."
According to Channel 2, the same official told members of Netanyahu's team that Trump's visit to the Western Wall was a private visit and also added: "No way, why is this your business?"
The official allegedly went on to say: "This is not your territory but rather part of the West Bank."
Trump tells Israel to 'hold back on settlements' during meeting with Netanyahu at White House on Feb. 15, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
A source close to the preparations team in Israel told Channel 2 that the statements made by the White House official were received with utter shock by Netanyahu's team. "In Israel they're convinced that this statement is opposed to President Trump's policy as it was expressed recently in his behavior and in his firm resistance to the most recent Security Council resolution. Israel has turned to to the US [to discuss this further]."
And as Netanyahu's team reeled from the shocking and negative remarks that were reportedly made by the US official today, it also faced another worrying report coming from a senior Fox news correspondent who took to social media to claim earlier in the day that the premier had asked US President Donald Trump to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv and not relocate it to Israel's capital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Office denied the claim on Monday evening, issuing a statement that said: "The things published on Fox News are a lie."
The premier's office was referring to a tweet posted earlier in the day by Fox News foreign correspondent Connor Powell, who wrote on Twitter that "everyone I've spoken to in DC that has been briefed on #Jerusalem embassy move says #Netanyahu told #Trump not to move embassy at this time."
The firm denial coming from the prime minister's office was backed by a rare and unusual move. The statement released by the office included a transcript from Netanyahu's meeting with Trump in Washington which took place this February, acting as proof that the report provided by Powell was false.
The transcript included the following:
"From a summary of the lunch at the White House: 'President Trump was asked about the embassy and explained that it (moving the embassy) will not cause bloodshed in the region, like he has been warned against (President Trump).' "
Netanyahu on Monday called again on Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem, on the same day that his controversial Israel envoy pick David Friedman arrives in Israel to begin his tenure.