Pressed on the White House's dodging on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel, Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not even say Tuesday that Jerusalem is in Israel.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster declined two times to say whether the Western Wall was a part of Israel when he briefed the press on Tuesday. The questions on the matter stemmed from a U.S. diplomat reportedly telling the Israelis that the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City is part of the West Bank and "not your territory," and thus Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not join Trump on a visit to the site.
A reporter noted McMaster's refusal to clarify the matter was causing a stir and asked Spicer "why you guys can't answer that question."
"The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith," Spicer said. "It's clearly in Jerusalem, but there's been—it's an issue that has had serious consideration. It'll be a topic that's going to be discussed during the president's trip between parties that he meets with, but obviously, I think, this stems from a comment that was made yesterday which was not the policy of the United States."
The White House stated on Monday that the diplomat's remarks did not reflect Trump's views.
Israel has long said that Jerusalem is its capital, but the Jewish state's position is not universally recognized. The Palestinians have sought to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future state. U.S. policy has been that the status of Jerusalem will be determined in peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, although President Trump has expressed interest in moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump has recently backed off his campaign promise to move the embassy, and the issue is being debated as the president plans to travel to Israel next week.
The United Nations passed a controversial resolution in December declaring East Jerusalem to be territory illegally occupied by Israel, which includes the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.