(JNS.org) Ahead of his first official visit to Israel next week, President Donald Trump refused to rule out the possibility that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could accompany him on a visit to the Western Wall.
The decision to visit the Western Wall “with the rabbi is more traditional, but that could change,” Trump told Israel Hayom Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth at the White House Thursday, when asked why Netanyahu would not accompany him.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had said earlier this week that Trump’s visit to the Western Wall would not involve any Israeli officials.
“No Israeli leaders will join President Trump to the Western Wall,” McMaster told reporters as he outlined the president’s trip.
In the same news conference, McMaster also refused to say whether or not the Western Wall is part of Israel.
McMaster said questions regarding the status of the Western Wall, which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, “sound like a policy decision.”
The Western Wall (also known as the Kotel), regarded as one of the holiest sites in Judaism, is the outer retaining wall of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. Israel gained control over the Western Wall during the 1967 Six-Day War, when it captured the eastern half of Jerusalem from Jordan. Despite the Kotel’s significance in Judaism and Israel’s control over a united Jerusalem, the international community—including the U.S.—does not officially recognize the Western Wall as part of Israel.
In his interview with Israel Hayom, Trump also spoke of the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
“I think there is a great possibility that we will make a deal....I love the people of Israel, I am working very hard to finally have peace for the people of Israel and the Palestinians. Hopefully that can come about much sooner than anybody has ever projected,” Trump said.