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Trump official tells Israelis Western Wall 'not Israeli territory' Open in fullscreen

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Trump official tells Israelis Western Wall 'not Israeli territory'

The Western Wall was occupied with rest of east Jerusalem in the 1967 war [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 May, 2017

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A diplomatic spat has erupted between the United States and Israel after a US official said the Western Wall "was not part of Israeli territory".

A diplomatic spat has erupted between the United States and Israel after a US official said the Western Wall "was not part of Israeli territory".

The dispute began on Monday, just days before a planned visit by US President Donald Trump, with Israel angrily demanding an explanation from the White House over the comments.

Israeli Channel 2 reported that a senior US official visiting Israel ahead of Trump's visit next week told his Israeli counterparts that holy site was "not your territory..It's part of the West Bank" during a conversation over a possible Trump trip to the Western Wall.

The angry exchanges took place while Israeli officials asked whether Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should accompany Trump as he visits the Jerusalem site, which is the holiest location where Jews are allowed to pray in the city.

The Western Wall - also known as the Wailing Wall - was occupied along with rest of east Jerusalem in the 1967 war in a move not recognised by the international community.

Palestinians want the capital of their future independent state to be Jerusalem, which is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque - the third-holiest site in Islam.

The White House on Monday told The Time of Israel the comments by the official were "unauthorised" and did not represent Trump's policy.

Trump is set to become the first US President to visit the wall on his upcoming trip, according to Israeli media.

He vowed to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his presidential campaign, a prospect that has deeply alarmed Palestinians, but has since backed away, saying the move was still being looked at.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a staunch backer of illegal settlements, arrived in the country on Monday to take up his post ahead of the visit.

After his arrival in Tel Aviv, Friedman visited the Western Wall, praying there and kissing the sacred site.

"I prayed for the president and I wished him success, especially on his upcoming trip," Friedman said in a video posted on the US embassy's Twitter feed.

"I know it’s going to be an amazing trip," he said.

Since taking office, Trump has called for restraint in settlement construction and signalled he is no hurry to move the embassy.

Earlier this month, he held a warm meeting with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, at the White House.

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