(JTA) — H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, declined to say whether the Western Wall was part of Israel.
“That sounds like a policy decision,” McMaster told reporters on Tuesday.
The question was raised after a U.S. consular official reportedly told an Israeli official that the wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, “is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank.” The remark runs counter to Israeli claims on Jerusalem as its united capital and contradicts a campaign promise by Trump to recognize the whole city as part of Israel.
Trump will visit the wall on his trip to Israel next week, the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a news briefing Tuesday that the wall is “clearly in Jerusalem” — which no one denies, and which does not address whether it is part of Israel. Spicer said the wall’s status would be discussed during the president’s trip next week to Israel.
The Orthodox Union criticized McMaster’s remark in a statement.
“We appreciate that President Donald Trump will make a historic trip to Israel next week and will be the first sitting president to visit and pray at Judaism’s holiest site – the Western Wall of the Temple Mount,” said O.U. President Mark Bane. “However, we are dismayed that just days before the trip, the White House’s National Security Adviser declined to state at the press podium that the Western Wall is part of Israel.”