Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall

Police redirect traffic ahead near the King David Hotel in Jerusalem ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump

Police redirect traffic ahead near the King David Hotel in Jerusalem ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump

Mr Trump, wearing a black skullcap, became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall on Monday. When asked on Air Force 1 if the Western Wall is in Israel, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson replied, "It is part of Jerusalem".

Arriving from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump expressed his hope for cooperation among USA allies in the Middle East. Israel was his second stop on a nine-day tour aimed to test the waters for reviving the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

In a statement following the meeting, Mr Trump addressed his meetings the previous day with Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, and said that there is growing realisation that they share a goal with Israel in their determination to defeat extremism and deter "the threat posed by Iran".

"The wall is part of Jerusalem", he said, declaring an undeniable fact accepted by all sides. Netanyahu said the Israeli people "applaud" the US president for making the trip. Tillerson referred to the visit as "a moment in time" and suggested that the US would take a more active role in the future in brokering a deal if both sides make serious commitments.

Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are observant Jews, joined the president and his wife.

Trump, wearing a yarmulke, placed his right hand on the wall and swayed slightly back and forth with his eyes closed for almost a minute.

The Western Wall sits in Jerusalem's Old City, which was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel's subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized internationally.

While the US National Security Adviser defends the disclosure as "wholly appropriate", it is unknown whether the Israelis will feel the same. Palestinians and most of the worldwide community consider East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City, as the capital of a future Palestinian state. During the campaign, Trump pledged to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but has since walked back that promise. Other Presidents have bypassed the Western Wall on visits to Israel.

President Donald Trump gives a speech as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nehama, first lady Melania Trump and the prime minister's wife Sara Netanyahu (left) listen during a welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Monday. An Israeli TV station quoted an American as telling the Israelis that the wall is not in Israeli territory, enraging Trump's Israeli hosts.

Standing alongside Netanyahu on Monday, Trump almost escaped answering questions about the intelligence dust up.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, later asked about McMaster's comments, said "It's clearly in Jerusalem".

Palestinians, who viewed Trump's victory with some trepidation, are said to have been pleasantly surprised by Trump's openness during a meeting with Abbas in Washington recently.

But hours later, Nikki Haley, Trump's United Nations ambassador, asserted that the wall is part of Israel.

Trump's visit to the wall comes after USA officials meeting with their Israeli counterparts to arrange Trump's visit sparked off a controversy by contending that the Western Wall was part of the West Bank - which is not United States policy.

For Jews, the Western Wall, a retaining wall from the biblical Jewish Temple, is revered as the holiest site where Jews can pray. Moving the US Embassy at this time could drive a wedge since Jerusalem is considered a Holy City in Islam as well as Judaism, and Christianity.

Both sides have been intensively lobbying Trump.

According to the White House, the visit affirmed the theme of Trump's first overseas trip, promoting unity and peace among the three Abrahamic faiths. No explanation was given for the dateline.

Earlier on Monday, on Mr Trump's first visit to Israel as president, he said he sees a growing recognition among Muslim nations that they share a "common cause" with Israel in their determination to counter threats posed by Iran.

But people familiar with Trump's trip said officials might offer a subtler gesture to recognize Israel's strong feelings about Jerusalem being its eternal capital.

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