The leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – issued the following statement after today’s briefing at the White House by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. At the briefing, Gen. McMaster was asked twice whether the Trump Administration recognizes the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the holiest site in Judaism) as part of Israel. Gen. McMaster avoided answering the questions. (White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer similarly avoided the issue in a subsequent briefing.)
Orthodox Union President Mark Bane issued the following statement on behalf of the organization’s leadership:
“We appreciate that President Donald Trump will make a historic trip to Israel next week and will be the first sitting president to visit and pray at Judaism’s holiest site – the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
However, we are dismayed that just days before the trip, the White House’s National Security Adviser declined to state at the press podium that the Western Wall is part of Israel.
The questions posed to NSA Gen. McMaster today were prompted by press reports yesterday that U.S. officials (working in Israel to prepare the President’s trip) stated the Western Wall is “not part of [Israel’s] territory, it is the West Bank.” A senior administration official subsequently issued a statement that “the comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president.”
We were relieved by this clarification. But it is all the more troubling today that Gen. McMaster did not affirm it when asked at today’s on-the-record briefing.
The Western Wall is indeed the holiest site that Jews can visit today for prayer and reflection as it is the only accessible remnant of the Holy Temple that once stood in Jerusalem. For centuries, Jews across the globe turned toward Jerusalem and prayed to return. Those prayers were answered 50 years ago next week as Jerusalem was reunified by Israeli forces in the Six-Day War – and Jews across the globe will celebrate this anniversary.
Now, therefore, is a crucial time for highlighting the historic connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and to give no credence to those who deny it. 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.
Moreover, we ask the president to begin to fulfill his campaign pledge to relocate the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – by announcing he will not sign a “national security waiver” (under the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995) and that the process of that relocation will commence.”