WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia mistakenly posted online a video of President Donald Trump that came from the account of a private Saudi citizen and had been edited to delete references to his upcoming visit to Israel, a State Department official said Monday.
The edited video was quickly removed after Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a sharply worded letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Engel told Tillerson the doctored video implied that the United States accepted Saudi Arabia’s refusal to recognize Israel as a state.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have formal diplomatic relations.
The American Embassy was unaware that the video had been altered, according to the State Department official. The video was immediately replaced on the embassy’s social media accounts with the original version that includes Trump stating Israel will be among the countries he’ll be visiting.
The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, said the embassy regretted the mistake.
In his letter to Tillerson, Engel said the video ran counter to U.S. efforts to support Israel and peace in the Middle East.
“At a time when the United States should be encouraging the governments of the region — and their people — to promote tolerance, respect and mutual recognition this video implies that the U.S. accepts Saudi Arabia’s public rejectionist position toward Israel,” Engel wrote.
Trump announced last week during remarks in the Rose Garden that his first foreign trip as president will feature stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. Trump will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other leaders to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism.
In Israel, Trump will seek to reinforce the U.S. alliance with Israel. He met with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Washington at the start of his presidency.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
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