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Before Trump’s Visit to Israel, Small Issues Prove Thorniest

Mr. Short did not say whether the president would invite Mr. Netanyahu to join him at the Western Wall. The two leaders are scheduled to meet while the president is in Jerusalem.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital. Israeli troops seized the area around the Western Wall in 1967 during the Six-Day War, and it has become both a sacred site for Jews and a highly visible symbol of the disputed nature of Jerusalem, which Palestinians also claim as their capital. The wall lies underneath the Al Aqsa Mosque, or Temple Mount, which is one of the holiest sites in Islam.

In a related matter, the political sensitivity of Jerusalem flared up after Mr. Netanyahu denied a report that he had privately urged Mr. Trump last February not to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. A Fox News correspondent, Conor Powell, wrote on Twitter that “Everyone I’ve spoken to in D.C. that has been briefed on #Jerusalem embassy move says #Netanyahu told #Trump not to move embassy at this time.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s office denounced the report as a “lie” and went so far as to release what it said were written reports, by an Israeli adviser, of the conversation between the prime minister and the president, when Mr. Netanyahu visited Washington in February. The Israelis said the prime minister told Mr. Trump that he favored moving the embassy.

“The embassy – the P.M. supports moving it,” wrote Yaakov Nagel, who was then the Israeli national security adviser, according to the excerpts released by Mr. Netanyahu’s office.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump promised repeatedly to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. But since he has taken office, he has put the decision on a back burner, in part, officials said, because several Arab leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, have warned the White House that it could cause an eruption of violence in the region.

Officials in Washington and Jerusalem have also suggested that moving the embassy was not a high priority for Mr. Netanyahu, especially compared to issues like the threat from Iran or the Islamic State. But the prime minister, analysts said, is in a coalition government with right-wing partners whom he cannot afford to antagonize on the status of Jerusalem, an issue that has long been a lightning rod in Israeli politics.

White House officials insist the move may still happen; Mr. Trump must decide by June whether to renew the waiver of the congressional vote instructing that the embassy be moved. But on Sunday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sowed new doubts about it.

“The president has recently expressed his view that he wants to put a lot of effort into seeing if we cannot advance a peace initiative between Israel and Palestine,” Mr. Tillerson said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “And so I think in large measure the president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.”

Even Mr. Tillerson’s reference to Israel and Palestine — rather than the customary Israel and the Palestinians — caused heartburn in Israel, where some interpreted it as evidence that a senior American official recognized the sovereignty of a Palestinian state, which has not yet been negotiated with the Israelis.

The White House insisted Mr. Tillerson was not sending any message. His use of the term Palestine, a senior official said, was “unintentional and unfortunate.”

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