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 during his stop at the Kosel.
The decision to tour 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 on Thursday, when asked why Netanyahu would not go with him to the holy site.
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 Kosel is part of Israel.
McMaster said questions regarding the status of the Kosel “sound like a policy decision.”
The Kosel, 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 AD. 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 US — 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,” Trump said. “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.”