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Palin skips visits to West Bank, mosque

It's a well-trod path for presidential contenders, and now Sarah Palin has made the trek: a visit to Israel.

Wearing a Star of David necklace, the Fox News Channel commentator and former Alaska governor met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and right-wing politician and settlement supporter Danny Danon.

She toured the Western Wall tunnels, one of Judaism's holiest sites, believed to be part of the biblical Jewish Temple destroyed in 70 A.D.

"Israel is absolutely beautiful, and it is overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith, and I am so grateful to get to be here," Palin told reporters.

But she skipped a visit the adjacent Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site to Muslims, and also canceled a planned trip to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, one of Christianity's most revered sites, though it wasn't clear why.

Her white van was seen driving up to the main checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on Monday afternoon, but neither she nor her husband, Todd, exited the vehicle or spoke with Israeli soldiers guarding the checkpoint. Her car was stopped just outside the 25-foot wall that runs alongside the checkpoint.

Israeli officials said she had not coordinated her visit with Palestinian authorities, though any person possessing a U.S. passport can enter Bethlehem after showing their identification to the soldiers.

Palestinian officials expressed disappointment that Palin hadn't visited them, but added they were "not surprised."

They pointed to a controversial post on Palin's Facebook page last year in which she said, "As Israel makes concessions (and is still criticized by the Obama administration), Arab leaders are just sitting back waiting for the White House to further pressure Israel. The Obama administration needs to open its eyes and recognize that it is only Iran and her terrorist allies that benefit from this manufactured Israeli controversy."

Palin's comments since arriving Sunday were strongly pro-Israel. "I'm so thankful to be able to be here, and I'm thankful to know the Israel-American connection will grow and strengthen as the peace negotiations continue," she said.

Danon told reporters that he was certain Palin would become, "a stronger advocate of Israel in the future."

Monday night, Palin was scheduled to tour the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and dine with Netanyahu.

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