Controversy over Trump Israel policy ahead of visit


Mr Trump promised to move the embassy during his campaign but since taking office has softened his stance on the issue after meeting Arab leaders whose support he wants to enlist as part of a regional Israel-Palestinian peace deal.

The US president vowed during his election campaign to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that would anger Palestinians and the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.

Netanyahu hurried to remove any doubt - and preempt protest within his right-wing government - in a statement issued by his office.

"We are convinced that this remark is in contradiction to the policy of President Trump", the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Palestinian and other Arab leaders have warned the Trump administration that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would risk stirring popular anger and possible unrest, as the Palestinians view the city's eastern half as their capital and because of the city's significance to Muslims.

At this stage, he will work out of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and will live in the ambassador's residence in Herzliya.

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Officials from the Israeli Prime Minister's office asked Trump administration officials if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may accompany the President to the Western Wall, to which the Americans responded that it will be a private visit. Among the issues of importance to the casino mogul and owner of the pro-Netanyahu daily paper in Israel, Israel Hayom, are moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and a crackdown on online gambling.

Trump's team had already planned to have Trump pay a visit to the wall, but on his own rather than as an official diplomatic act.

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. "It's part of the West Bank", said the White House official, according to Channel 2.

Since Trump took office last month, Israel has announced plans to build over 6,000 settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem - occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians.

The new United States ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, departed from diplomatic protocol by visiting the Western Wall on Monday.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

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Binyamin Netanyahu told US President Donald Trump not to move the US embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Fox News foreign correspondent Conor Powell reported Monday afternoon.

Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel considers the entire city to be its undivided capital. But apparently the request was denied and according to Israeli television, a US official said the Western Wall "is not your territory, but part of the West Bank".

The Palestinian Authority is based in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

In an unusual move, he also released some of the minutes of a meeting he had with Trump in Washington in February, showing that he had pressed the new president to move the embassy.

The new United States ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, departed from diplomatic protocol by visiting the Western Wall on Monday.

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