US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was yesterday photographed posing with a picture of Jerusalem in which a Jewish temple stands in place of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The photo of Freidman being gifted the poster was taken during a visit to the city of Bnei Brak’s ultra-Orthodox Achiya institute, which helps children that suffer from learning disabilities.
The photo clearly imposes a temple on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, removing the famous golden hues of the Dome of the Rock.
Whilst it is unclear whether Friedman was aware that the photo depicted the temple, the US embassy has demanded an apology from the organisation “for allowing one of their staff to present this controversial image to the ambassador during the visit,” according to Haaretz.
“The US’ policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” the statement concluded.
The Achiya organisation has since apologised and claimed it did not sanction the image to be gifted to the US envoy.
“Unfortunately, the ambassador’s visit was overshadowed by a cheap political act. The one responsible for that was found and the institution will handle it internally,” the group said.
Arab-Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List responded to the image on Twitter: “And this madman wants to bring peace good thing you didn’t put the embassy there!”
Ambassador Friedman oversaw the opening of the US embassy to Jerusalem last week, amid international condemnation and Palestinian outrage.
Friedman, a controversial candidate for the position of US ambassador due to his strong pro-Zionist stance, has made several statements in the past that were rebuffed by Washington as not reflecting official US policy.
He has been a strong advocate for settlements, having claimed on multiple occasions that they and their inhabitants are part of Israel. White House spokeswoman Heather Nauert clarified last year that the US did not share his opinion.
The Associated Press reported last month that Friedman has also been seeking to adopt the Israeli name for the West Bank, Judea, and Samaria, in his official speeches and statements, but has so far been prevented from doing so by the Trump administration.
He has previously called for the US government to stop using the term “occupied” when referring to Palestinian territories, despite the West Bank considered as such under international law.
Friedman has also taken part in religious rituals at the Al-Buraq Wall, referred to as the Western Wall by Israelis, under which a new synagogue was recently opened. In August of last year, his daughter migrated to Israel and enrolled in military service.
Israel has used the search for the alleged temple to justify excavations under the Noble Sanctuary, weakening its foundations.