USA spat erupts ahead of Trump visit to region


"We wanted to come straight to the holiest place in the entire Jewish world, the "Kotel HaMaaravi", the Western Wall, straight from the airport", Friedman told reporters.

Israel will maintain strong military ties with the U.S., the country's Defense Minister said on Wednesday.

We therefore ask President Donald Trump to explicitly affirm that the Western Wall was - and is now - by the grace of G-d under Israel's sovereignty.

Days before his arrival, a diplomatic row between the two countries arose after an American official was quoted as questioning Israel's claim to one of Judaism's holy sites in Jerusalem.

While Mr Trump is set to become the first serving U.S. president to visit Jerusalem's Western Wall, Mr Netanyahu will not be present, the White House said on Tuesday.

"Many Israelis expected the Trump visit would bolster Israel's position on Jerusalem and the peace talks", Stahl continued.

On Tuesday, as the first reports of the origins of the intelligence surfaced, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer released a statement saying, "Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump".

On Monday, Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, arrived in Israel to take up his new post and traveled straight to the Western Wall to pray.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the source of the information Trump gave to the Russians was Israeli intelligence. "I hope we can move without any pressure".

U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed his upcoming visit to Israel, senior officials told Haaretz on Wednesday morning. According to Israel's Channel 2 News, a member of the U.S. delegation preparing for Trump's visit made the comment about the wall when Israeli officials suggested a photographer shoot video of the President during a proposed visit to the site.

Just last week, the White House denied rumors that President Trump has already abandoned the idea of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Speaking to 103 FM, a local radio station, he suggested Israel "punish" the withholding certain information.

"We had a very good meeting", Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

"It will advance it by righting a historical wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel", Netanyahu said.

Danny Yatom, another ex-Mossad chief, said that if the reports were true, Trump had likely caused "heavy damage" to both Israeli and American security. The Palestinians see it as the capital of a future independent state. But since taking office, Trump has called for restraint in settlement construction.

Trump will be in Israel next week on the first foreign trip since his inauguration - and speculation has mounted he would make an announcement on the embassy's move during the visit.