Peace Talks First. The US Embassy Can Wait

A row erupted Tuesday over United States policy toward Israel days ahead of a visit by President Donald Trump, with fresh questions raised over the White House's approach to the ultra-sensitive status of Jerusalem.

Trump is traveling to Israel on May 22, as part of his first trip overseas, which will also include a stop in Saudi Arabia.

In an unusual move, Netanyahu also partially released the minutes of a meeting he had with Trump in Washington in February, showing he had pressed the new president to move the embassy. The Palestinian diplomatic aim is to convince the United States and the global community that there is a link between the fight against the Islamic State and the Palestinian issue, and therefore, the Arab Peace Initiative must be internationally recognized.

Netanyahu hurried to remove any doubt - and preempt protest within his right-wing government - in a statement issued by his office.

Palestinian and other Arab leaders have warned the Trump administration that moving the USA embassy to Jerusalem would risk stirring popular anger and possible unrest, as the Palestinians view the city's eastern half as their capital and because of the city's significance to Muslims.

The front of the USA embassy is seen in Tel Aviv, Israel January 20, 2017.

On Monday, in response to a Fox News report that Netanyahu told Trump not to move the embassy right away, the Prime Minister's Office released partial transcripts of Netanyahu's White House meeting as proof that he had urged the President to move the embassy. "Israel has made contact with the USA on this matter", the official said. "Moving the embassy would force the other side to contend with the lie they've constructed - that Israel has no connection to Jerusalem - and will cause them to understand that Israel will be here forever with Jerusalem as its capital'".

No serving U.S. president has ever visited the Western Wall, because USA policy has been that the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be resolved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. As for the near future, the official said that depending on Trump's actions after the visit, we will see if the next Palestinian steps are in the realm of diplomacy or of resistance to the 50-year-old occupation.

A White House spokesman later told CNN: "These comments were not authorized by the White House".

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The new U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, departed from diplomatic protocol by visiting the Western Wall on Monday.

An official in Netanyahu's office said the USA comment was "received with astonishment" and that Israel had asked the White House for an explanation.

Rivlin called on the "whole world to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of the state of Israel".

Separately, a reported comment by a United States official helping prepare Trump's visit also led to Israeli criticism, with the official allegedly telling Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall was part of the occupied West Bank.

A bankruptcy lawyer by profession, Friedman has no previous diplomatic experience.

Jewish-American Friedman is a strong supporter of Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

"So the problem is obviously not moving the embassy to Jerusalem".

Friedman, who visited the Western Wall after his arrival on Monday, said Trump had given him "the unequivocal and unambiguous mandate to support the state of Israel in every way and in all ways".

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