Republican criticizes McMaster's remarks on Western Wall

A top House Republican is criticizing President Trump's national security adviser for declining to clarify the White House position on the location of the Western Wall.

H.R. McMaster, in a press briefing Tuesday previewing Trump's first foreign trip, declined to elaborate on the location of Judaism's holiest site after reports that a U.S. official told Israeli counterparts the wall was located in the West Bank.

"That sounds like a policy decision," he said to reporters.

Asked during a briefing Tuesday to clarify the administration's position on the Western Wall, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the reported comments do not reflect U.S. policy.

"The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith," Spicer said. "It's clearly in Jerusalem but there's been - it's an issue that has had serious consideration, it'll be a topic that's gonna be discussed during the president's trip between the parties that he meets with. But obviously I think this stems from a comment that was made yesterday, in which was not the policy of the United States so just to be clear about what was said yesterday."

And in an interview with CBN News' "The Brody File," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, said, "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 we've always seen it and that's how we should pursue it ... we've always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel."

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, called McMaster's lack of clarification a "concerning shift" in the administration's policy.

"There is no question that both geographically and historically the Western Wall has been part of the state of Israel," he said in a statement.

"As one of Israel's closest allies, the United States has an obligation to stand by them and defend their rightful claim to one of the holiest sites in the nation of Israel. I hope H.R. McMaster will retract his remarks swiftly," he added.

A senior Israeli official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed to ABC News that Israel has asked the United States to clarify its position on the Western Wall after a "senior member of the U.S. delegation" prepping for Trump's upcoming visit told his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is "not your territory. It's part of the West Bank."

Israel's Channel 2 reported this exchange occurred after the Trump team rejected a request for Netanyahu to accompany Trump on his visit to the Western Wall, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so.

"The view that the Western Wall is part of the West Bank was received with shock," the official said.

ABC News' Kirit Radia and Jordanna Miller contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
abc newsnational
(Copyright ©2018 ABC News Internet Ventures.)