National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster speaks to reporters in the briefing room at the White House on May 16. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

McMaster refuses to clarify U.S. position on Kotel


U.S. National Security H.R. McMaster briefed reporters about President Donald Trump’s upcoming trip overseas at the White House on Tuesday.

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

The President’s Israel trip schedule: “The President will continue on to Jerusalem where he will meet with President (Reuven) Rivlin and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem. The President will then deliver remarks at the Israel Museum and celebrate the unique history of Israel and the Jewish people while reaffirming America’s unshakable bond with our closest ally in the Middle East. Later that day, he will meet with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu. That night, the President and the First Lady will join the Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu for a private dinner. The following morning, the President will meet President [Mahmoud] Abbas in Bethlehem where he will convey his administration’s eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends the conflict, and he will urge Palestinian leaders to take steps that will lead to peace. And he will visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and say a prayer at the Western Wall.”

The National Security Advisor was asked to respond to reports yesterday that U.S. officials told the Israelis that the Western Wall is part of disputed territory in the West Bank and not under Israeli sovereignty. A WH spokesperson said yesterday that the comments “do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the President.” McMaster, however, refused to clarify the Trump Administration’s position on the matter.

#1 – Reporter: Can you tell us if Prime Minister Netanyahu would join President Trump at the Western Wall? And does the President believe that the Western Wall is part of Israel?

McMaster: “No Israeli leaders will join President Trump to the Western Wall. He is going to the Western Wall mainly in connection with the theme – to connect with three of the world’s great religions and to pay homage to these religious sites that he is visiting, but also to highlight the theme that we all have to be united against what’s really the enemy of all civilized people, and that we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation.”

#2 – Reporter: I want to follow up on Jennifer’s question which you didn’t answer about the Western Wall being part of Israel?

McMaster: “Oh, that sounds like a policy decision, you know — and that’s the President’s intention. And I did answer the question in terms of what his intention is whether to go with Israeli officials. The President’s intention is to visit these religious sites to highlight the need for unity amongst three of the world’s great religions – unity in confronting a very grave threat to all civilization and unity in embracing an agenda of tolerance.”