Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has paid a rare, unofficial visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem al-Quds, in a move not common by European leaders who view the city as Israeli-occupied territory.
The chancellor, who came to power in Vienna in October last year, arrived for a three-day visit in Israel on Sunday.
Kurz visited the wall, known in Arabic as al-Buraq Wall, before his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s English language newspaper, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The visit to the wall, though not a formal one, was described in Israeli media as an “important” move by Kurz as the chancellor has been under fire at home for being in coalition with far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which is accused of failing to seriously tackle “anti-Semitism” in Austria.
The FPO, founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, came third in last year’s parliamentary election and is now a junior coalition partner to the chancellor’s conservatives.
After forming the coalition, Israel said it would not work directly with any ministers from the far-right party.
The visit, however, is not considered a common move by a leader from the European Union. The city has been designated as occupied under international law since the 1967 Arab War, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.
The EU has strongly criticized the US for recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.
The Europeans say the fate of the city should be decided in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The occupied territories have witnessed high tensions ever since last December, when Trump announced his policy shift on Jerusalem al-Quds.
Since late March, over 120 Palestinian protesters have been killed and thousands more wounded by Israeli forces.