National security adviser H.R. McMaster declined to say on Tuesday whether President Donald Trump considers the Western Wall to be part of Israel.
“That sounds like a policy decision,” McMaster told reporters at a briefing in the White House.
Trump will visit Israel later this month on his first foreign trip as president, and he plans to visit the Jewish holy site while in Jerusalem, without Israeli leaders present, according to McMaster.
The planned visit sparked controversy on Monday in the wake of a report that an official representing the White House ahead of the trip told Israeli officials that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not accompany the president to the Western Wall because it is not Israeli territory.
The U.S. official said the Western Wall was part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to the report by Israel’s Channel 2. The Western Wall is part of territory Israel seized in a 1967 war.
After Netanyahu’s office reacted negatively to the comments, the White House distanced itself from them and said they do not represent the position of Trump or the U.S. government.
McMaster declined to elaborate on Trump’s foreign policy position on the site but said he hopes to promote tolerance by visiting it.
“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 pay homage to each of the religious sites that he’s visiting,” McMaster told reporters, “but also to highlight the theme that we all have to be united against really what are the enemies of all civilized people.”