Saturday, October 31, 2020

US envoys lend a hand at controversial tunnel inauguration in occupied East Jerusalem

By F.T Hupsel - July 05, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Jerusalem]

US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman and the White House Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, attended the inauguration of a contested tunnel underneath the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday 30 June. 

After a provocative speech at the ceremony, Friedman hammered through a wall to open the subterranean path, along with Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu and donors of the project.

Friedman said that “Some people, not necessarily friends of ours, are obsessing about my being here.”

The project is co-sponsored by a Jewish settlement group and Israel’s Antiquities and Nature and Parks authorities.

Israeli archaeologists declared that it is the ancient road used by Jewish pilgrims on their way to the Temple Mount around two millennia ago, which many believe to be the pillar of ancient Jewish civilization.

“Were there any doubt and to me, there never was, about the accuracy, the wisdom and propriety of President Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, I certainly think this lays all doubts to rest,” Friedman added.

Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, condemned the US officials’ attendance and active participation in the event. 

“I hope all the world, including Americans, can see this. That is not a US Ambassador, that is an extremist Israeli settler,” Erekat tweeted regarding Friedman.

The tunnel digging has led to confrontations between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers participating in the tunnel project, with several Palestinian families forced to evacuate their homes due to the continuous structural damage. 

Israel captured Silwan and neighbouring districts in 1967, after the Six-Day War. Over the years, hundreds of settlers have moved into Silwan, where they live among 5,000 Palestinians.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also declared in a statement that the American attendance and celebration activities in occupied East Jerusalem were seen as hostile acts against the Palestinian struggle.

"The administration of President Donald Trump proves day by day its unlimited affiliation to the colonial settlement project, led by the extremist right in the state of the occupation," it said.

As reported in the New York Times, previous American ambassadors to Israel avoided public appearances in occupied territories to avoid being seen as taking Israel's side in the conflict with the Palestinians.

But this has not been the case with the current administration.

Last week, Jason Greenblatt, who has frequently criticised Palestinian leaders and is one of the co-authors of the “deal of the century”, said he has not expressed similar criticism of Netanyahu or other Israeli officials because he has not "found anything to criticise them,” and that he prefers to call settlements, “neighbourhoods and cities.”

In early June, Friedman said in an interview to the New York Times that Israel has the 'right’ to annex parts of the West Bank, sparking anger from Palestinians and the international community.


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