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Despite Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Pence’s Visit to Western Wall Expected to Be 'Private'

For years, American officials have avoided making official visits to the Western Wall, which the State Department considers 'disputed territory'; after Trump's decision, it seems that the situation has not changed

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks alongside Vice President Mike Pence during an event at the White House. December 7, 2017.
SAUL LOEB/AFP

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit the Western Wall on Wednesday during his scheduled trip to Israel next week, but the visit is planned as a “private” one that is not officially part of his trip. Pence's family and the rabbi of the Western Wall will accompany him to one of Judaism's holiest sites, located in Jerusalem's Old City.

Over the years, most diplomats have avoided making official visits to the Western Wall because most of the international community considers it to be disputed territory not under Israeli sovereignty. The question was whether Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has changed this and would allow such a visit to be categorized as official.

For now, it does not seem that Israel will protest the decision. Pence’s entire trip, including the Western Wall visit, is a major achievement in its own right, so there is no reason to confront the Trump administration over the matter, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz on Friday.

A view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City, December 6, 2017.
Oded Balilty/AP

Trump’s festive visit to the Western Wall during his May trip to Israel was also called a private event, and no Israeli officials accompanied him there.

About a week before Trump’s arrival in Israel this past spring, American diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem refused to discuss arrangements for the U.S. president's planned visit to the Western Wall with Israeli officials. They claimed that the site is in the West Bank, which the Israeli government has no authority over.

The embarrassing diplomatic incident was first reported by Channel 2. The White House later disavowed the remarks, saying they do not reflect the U.S. position.

When officials from the Prime Minister’s Office asked Trump’s staff to allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accompany Trump on the Western Wall visit, they were refused and told it was of a private nature. When asked if they could send a photographer to the event, the Americans told them it was none of their business and not even Israeli territory but part of the West Bank, Channel 2 reported. 

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This article was amended on December 19, to correct a reference to the Western Wall as Judaism's holiest site.