US envoy defends ceremonial opening of City of David site with sledgehammer

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman defends his controversial decision to be photographed using a sledgehammer in a ceremony yesterday unveiling a new archaeological site in the City of David area, south of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. The site was excavated under Palestinian homes in what Palestinians view as part of the Silwan neighborhood.

“It was the appropriate tool with which to symbolically open a historic underground excavation. If we were opening a bridge we’d probably use something else,” he tells The Times of Israel.

Friedman rejects critics who say his attendance at the East Jerusalem site would signal US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the area.

“The City of David is at once in a century discovery of enormous historical significance to many Americans, as well as Israelis. That’s why I attended. No political message was intended.”

Friedman reiterates his view, delivered earlier this week in a newspaper interview, that he does not think the Israeli government would ever consider handing this part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians in a future peace agreement.

“This is my view based on the facts. This does not prejudge the outcome of future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” he says.

— Raphael Ahren

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