US ambassador to Israel ‘taken advantage of' when photographed with Jerusalem poster

The poster of an aerial view of Jerusalem was missing the al-Aqsa mosque 

A general view of the skyline of the old city of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock in the Aqsa Compund.
A general view of the skyline of the old city of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock in the Aqsa Compund.

The US says someone "took advantage" of its ambassador to Israel to be photographed with a poster of Jerusalem that was missing the city’s revered al-Aqsa mosque.

David Friedman was photographed during a visit to the city of Bnei Brek near Tel Aviv accepting the controversial large poster of aerial image of the holy city that was missing the famous golden Dome of the Rock. A statement from the new US embassy in Jerusalem said Mr Friedman was “deeply disappointed” when alerted to the issue, but was not aware of the missing mosque when the image was “thrust in front of him when the picture was taken”.

The “doctored aerial image of Jerusalem [showed] the Third Jewish Temple where the Dome of the Rock stands today,” al Jazeera reported. The mosque is central to Palestinian identity in Jerusalem and considered the third holiest site in Islam. The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, however the new US embassy in Jerusalem noted: "The US policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount”.

The trip was organised by a charity called Achiya, which aims to help students with learning disabilities. The group said the poster was a “cheap political act” by one of its staffers. "We regret that a petty political gesture spoiled this event," the group added.

The embassy has also demanded a formal apology from the charity.

The picture has since created a furor on social media amid an already tense relationship between the US and Palestinians due to the recent move of the US embassy to the holy city.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's adviser for religious affairs, Mahmoud Habbash, called Mr Friedman a "terrorist settler,” the official WAFA news agency reported. Despite the US embassy statement, the Palestinian government said the picture was an example of "reckless and racist arrogance".

The US recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, in spite of a subsequent United Nations vote deeming it “null and void”.

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At the time, violence had broken out in Gaza as Hamas, the militant group that controls the area, called for a “day of rage”.

During his announcement, US President Donald Trump said the decision was “long overdue” and "nothing more or less than recognition of reality.”

Mr Trump had repeatedly promised to be more cognisant of Israeli concerns during the 2016 campaign, painting himself as far more pro-Israel than his predecessor President Barack Obama - who had an openly cold relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Friedman also just wrote an opinion piece published on Fox News that said the American “liberal media” was guilty of taking sides with Hamas to try and ruin the "beautiful and uplifting event" of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

The ambassador said there were "some 60 Gazans, the overwhelming majority of whom were known Hamas terrorists, [who] lost their lives because Hamas turned them into a collective suicide bomb” in the violence that resulted from the move.

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