The Palestinian Authority was outraged Wednesday by a photo of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman holding an image of Jerusalem altered to remove the iconic Dome of the Rock and insert an as-yet-nonexistent Third Temple.
Commenting on the photo, Saeb Erekat, a close associate of P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, said, “This is reckless, brazen behavior. It is aggression over Jerusalem. Anyone who does this is blatantly trying to turn the conflict into a violent one on the basis of religion.”
Abbas adviser Mahmoud al-Habbash also lashed out at Friedman, who has openly supported Jewish settlements in the past.
“The settler and terrorist David Friedman and his radical friends want to erase every Palestinian Muslim feature from Jerusalem and drive all the Palestinians out of the city,” said Habbash.
“Friedman is nothing less than a criminal. His appearance, smiling next to a photograph from which Al-Aqsa was removed and replaced with the Jewish Temple, was provocative and inciting. It sends a racist message calling for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
“The removal of the Islamic holy sites was the idea of extremist Jews who control the occupation government and confirmation that the American administration has adopted the extremist Jews’ racist thinking.
“We call on Arab governments and Muslim countries, international organizations and the international community to intervene immediately and stop this dangerous process before it is too late. Friedman the criminal must apologize and resign. The U.S. administration must remove the settlement called ‘the embassy’ [the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem] and take back its declarations on the status of Jerusalem [as the capital of Israel].”
Knesset member Talab Abu Arar (Joint Arab List) also commented on the photo, saying, “The slippery slope that Friedman and his friends are on is a disaster and it poses a strategic threat to the welfare of the innocent citizens of this country. Mosques are not something that can be given up. That is a strong, red line.”
He also demanded that Friedman “take back your provocations,” saying the U.S. diplomat was endangering the “fate of peace in the entire region.”
According to Israeli media reports, the picture was thrust into Friedman’s hands during a visit to an ultra-Orthodox NGO in Bnei Brak that works with haredi children with learning disabilities. The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that he had not been aware of the image and was “deeply disappointed” that his visit had been taken advantage of in that way.
Written by Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom