Rabat – In a series of comments completely counter to decades-long official US policy regarding Jerusalem and the Western Wall, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley, created yet another controversy on Tuesday when she claimed in a television interview that the “Western wall is part of Israel.”
Haley made the comments on Tuesday while appearing on The Brody File, a news program broadcast on the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN), founded by televangelist, Pat Robertson. They also came hot on the heels of a recent spat swirling around Trump’s planned visit to the Wailing Wall during his upcoming trip to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had asked to join the President at the wall but was unceremoniously rebuffed by one US official who reportedly said “What are you talking about? It’s none of your business. It’s not even part of your responsibility. It’s not your territory. It’s part of the west Bank.” The remarks were met with “astonishment” on the part of the Prime minister’s office and an immediate explanation was demanded.
When asked about the incident and Trump’s visit to the Western Wall, Haley made her position clear: “I don’t know what the policy of the administration is, but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how, you know, we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it.”
She claimed little knowledge of what precisely happened during the row but had no problem adding “I know that they’re trying to fix it and get that taken care of, but we’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel.”
Analysts agree that her choice of words reflected her personal opinions on the issue and not necessarily an official trump administration stance. They also, however, agree that a diplomat of Haley’s stature simply isn’t afforded the luxury of giving voice to his/her personal views on issues. Historically, when the US ambassador to the UN speaks, their comments are widely accepted to be that of the administration they represent.
The US government has long viewed the Western Wall, or so-called Wailing Wall, as belonging to Jerusalem, a key distinction in the US approach to the issue since the formation of Israel in 1948. Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the US as well as the international community, consider the wall and the entire area to be occupied territory.
In other words, the question of possession is one for Israel and the Palestinians to work out on their own. This has made reaching a lasting peace accord between the two interests a contentious affair, with both claiming historical dominion and both claiming the city of Jerusalem to be their capital.
Throwing diplomatic salt on an open wound, Haley continued her Brody File remarks saying “Obviously, I believe that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because if you look at all their government it’s in Jerusalem. So much of what goes on is in Jerusalem and I think we have to see that for what it is.”
Allowing personal views and her diplomatic responsibilities to blur further, Haley admitted to not knowing what the administration’s official position is, saying “… but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that is how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it… We’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel.”
During his election campaign, Trump repeatedly raised the subject of moving the embassy. Since taking office, however, enthusiasm for the decision seems to have cooled, at least publicly.
Under condition of anonymity, a US State Department official declared that the position on control of the Old City is that “no state has sovereignty…”
Haley’s impolitic comments had White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, struggling for a coherent response. When asked a direct question by reporters he gave the following choppy response: “It’s clearly in Jerusalem… But there’s been — it’s an issue that’s had serious consideration. It will be a topic that’s going to be discussed during the president’s trip between the parties that he meets with.”