Trump Administration 'Can't Envision' Western Wall Left Out of Israel in Future Peace Deal

'We cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didnt include the Western Wall,' official says

U.S. President Donald Trump at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, February 22, 2017
Ronen Zvulun/ AP

WASHINGTON - Ahead of Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Israel next week, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday that the administration cannot envision a situation in which the Western Wall isn't a part of Israel in a future peace agreement.

The official said in a press briefing on Pence's visit that while the final boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem should be decided in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, "We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didnt include the Western Wall."

Responding questions about whether Egypt and Arab states can pressure the Palestinians into cooperating with the peace process, the senior official also stated that "we don't believe pressure works.

"The president has said he's not going to impose a deal on either side. We think it's appropriate for the Palestinians to digest what has happened. And once they review the president's remarks clearly, they will realize that nothing has changed in terms of being able to reach an historic peace agreement.

"So we think that the Egyptians and others, of course, can encourage them, but this visit may not be the right time to stress any kind of pressure from either side."

Pence is expected to land in Israel Wednesday evening and visit the Western Wall that night.

The official said that Pence will be visiting the the holy site officially "as the vice president of the United States," but earlier, Israeli and American officials told Haaretz that Pence's visit will be no different from previous such visits by senior U.S. figures: It will be private, without Israeli officials present and outside the diplomatic protocol. Pence will be accompanied by his family and the Western Wall rabbi. As of now, Israel hasn't received instructions to the contrary. The assumption in Jerusalem and Washington on Friday night was that senior Israeli officials will not accompany Pence during his visit, similarly to Trump's visit there in May.

On Thursday, Pence is slated to have a meeting with Netanyahu, deliver formal remarks to the Knesset and dine at the Prime Minister's Residence. Friday's schedule includes a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. He will then travel to Egypt where he will meet Egyptian President Sissi.

Palestinian officials said they will not receive Pence during his visit to the region, in protest against Trump's historic announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 

Trump's special envoy Jason Greenblatt will also travel to Israel early next week "for meetings related to our peace effort," a senior White House official has said.