JERUSALEM — For the past twenty-four hours, the Israeli news media have been hyping a story that a senior member of the American delegation prepping President Donald Trump’s trip to Israel sniped at his Israeli counterpart that the Western Wall – Judaism’s holiest site – is “not your territory”; it’s “part of the West Bank.”
The rampant television, radio, newspaper, and Internet news reports framed the official as being associated with Trump’s delegation as if the individual were a member of the administration who came to Israel to help prepare for next week’s presidential visit.
Tuesday, Israel’s Channel 2 identified the individual allegedly involved in the confrontation as David Berns, the political counselor at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.
According to the television report, Berns was joined by embassy economic adviser Jonathan Shrier, who also was allegedly involved in the episode.
Berns is a career officer at the State Department who has been working at the U.S. Consulate since August 2015. In other words, he received his position there during the Obama administration. According to his LinkedIn profile, Berns served from January 2002 until present as a foreign service officer with the State Department.
Shrier is also a career officer, who arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in August 2015 – during the Obama administration – as the counselor for Economic Affairs.
Monday, the Times of Israel reported on the original story:
In a bitter diplomatic incident, a senior member of the US delegation making preparations for Donald Trump’s visit to Israel next week angrily rejected a request that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompany the president when he visits the Western Wall, and then sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank,” Israeli television reported on Monday night.
Asked about the remarks, a spokesperson for the Trump administration told the Jerusalem Post, “These comments, if true, were not authorized by the White House.”
“They do not reflect the US position, and certainly not the president’s position,” the spokesperson said.
Indeed, the incident ironically took place after reporters photographed Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, praying at the Western Wall just after his arrival in the country. Friedman told reporters that he was praying for Trump’s success during the president’s upcoming trip.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.