US envoys to attend Israeli settler-linked event in Jerusalem
Two US envoys are expected to attend an archaeological event organised by an Israeli settler-linked group in east Jerusalem on Sunday, their latest move breaking with precedent and angering Palestinians.
White House adviser Jason Greenblatt and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman were to attend the event marking the completion of an archaeological project next to the Old City in mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem, according to the group, the City of David Foundation.
Greenblatt confirmed their planned attendance and dismissed accusations it was a further acknowledgement of Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority “claims our attendance at this historic event supports ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem/is an act of hostility vs. Palestinians. Ludicrous,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archaeology show. We can acknowledge it & you can stop pretending it isn’t true! Peace can only be built on truth.”
The event will see the unveiling of part of an ancient road, now underground, that the foundation says served as a pilgrimage route to the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.
Work has taken place in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in the eastern sector of the disputed city.
Israeli government officials were also to attend the event.
Palestinians accuse Israel and the foundation of seeking to push them out of the city.
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the colonialist plans to replace the existing reality in occupied Jerusalem and the environs of the Old City”.
‘A political act’
Emek Shaveh, an Israeli group that opposes the “politicisation” of archaeology, also condemned the planned American presence, calling it “a political act which is the closest the US will have come to recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Old City basin of Jerusalem”.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
It sees the entire city as its capital while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The foundation oversees activities in Israel’s City of David national park in east Jerusalem that seek to demonstrate the connection between Jewish history and the city.
US President Donald Trump in 2017 broke with decades of precedent by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The White House later cut hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid and closed the Palestinians’ de facto embassy in Washington.
Last week, it organised an economic conference in Bahrain meant to kickstart a long-awaited Middle East peace effort, but the Palestinians boycotted it.
Friedman has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and Greenblatt last week said he preferred to call them “neighbourhoods and cities” rather than settlements.
Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace since they are located on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel says Palestinian violence, incitement and the intransigence of their leaders are the main reasons for the lack of progress in peace efforts.
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