National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster would not say Tuesday if President Trump considered the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, to be part of Israel.
According to a report, Israel is demanding an explanation ahead of Trump's visit next week after a U.S. official reportedly questioned Israel's claim to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. A diplomat reportedly told the Israelis that it is part of the West Bank and "not your territory," and as such Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not join Trump on a private visit to the site.
A reporter asked if Netanyahu would join Trump and whether he felt the Western Wall of the Temple Mount was part of Israel. McMaster answered the first question but not the second.
"No Israeli leaders will join President Trump to the Western Wall," McMaster said. "He's going to the Western Wall mainly in connection with the theme to connect with three of the world's great religions, and to advance—to pay homage at each of these religious sites that he's visiting, but also to highlight the theme that we all have to be united against what are really the enemies of all civilized people, and that we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation."
However, the White House had pushed back against the report of the anonymous diplomat's comments a day earlier.
"If true, the comments were not authorized by the White House," White House spokesman Michael Short told the New York Times. "They do not reflect the U.S. position, and certainly not the president’s position."
A controversial United Nations resolution in December declared East Jerusalem, and thus the Western Wall, to be illegally occupied territory by Israel. Israel gained sovereignty over East Jerusalem after its victory in the 1967 war.
Later, a reporter followed up by asking McMaster again about the Western Wall, noting he did not answer the question. He called it a "policy decision."
UPDATE: 2:28 P.M.: An earlier version of this article stated there was no follow-up question to McMaster about the Western Wall. There was one later in the briefing about it.