Trump administration official who denied Israel’s ties to Western Wall identified by Israel TV

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Trump administration official who said the Western Wall is not part of Israel was David Berns, the political counsellor at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, according to an Israeli television news report.

A second U.S. official, the consulate’s economic counselor Jonathan Shrier, also was involved in the incident, Channel 2 reported Tuesday evening. It said Berns could lose his job over the incident.

The remark that the Western Wall “is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank” reportedly arose during conversations between an advance team planning Trump’s visit to Israel next week and officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. In response, some members of the Israeli delegation started shouting, Channel 2 reported Monday.

Netanyahu wanted to join Trump on his visit to the Wall, which is unprecedented for a sitting president. The request reportedly was rejected, with U.S. officials saying it would be a “private visit” by Trump.

The coverage area of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government asked for clarification following Berns’ reported remarks.

“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,” a White House official told JTA.

The comments came on the same day that the Trump administration’s new ambassador to Israel arrived in the country and immediately paid a visit to the Western Wall.

Berns has held his role at the Consulate since August 2015, according to his LinkedIn page.

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