US ambassador poses with poster of al-Aqsa mosque replaced with Jewish temple
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was photographed on Tuesday posing with a poster of an aerial view of Jerusalem, in which the al-Aqsa mosque had been removed.
The edited photo of the holy city, which was presented to Friedman by an activist for the NGO "Achiya," showed a rebuilt third temple in the place of the mosque.
Washington's embassy in Israel said the ambassador was unaware of the details in the photo and was caught off guard.
"Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken," a US Embassy spokesperson said a statement. "He was deeply disappointed that anyone would take advantage of his visit to Bnei Brak to create controversy."
The US embassy to Israel also emphasised that "US policy [supports] the status quo on the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount."
The embassy also demanded an apology from the NGO, which was leading Friedman's tour during his visit to Bnei Brak.
"We apologise to Ambassador Friedman and the US Embassy. One of our staffers presented a picture to the Ambassador that was not cleared or approved by our organisation or the embassy and Ambassador," Achiya later said in a statement. "The Ambassador and his team were professional and generous with their time in visiting us to highlight the important life changing work we do. Unfortunately the entire experience has been clouded by a cheap political stunt."
The status of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Jewish Temple Mount have long been a bone of contention among Palestinians and right-wing Israeli activists who wish to claim the area.
Israeli hardliners have called for the demolition of the al-Aqsa mosque in order to make way for a Jewish temple.
Friedman, while having distanced himself from the poster on Tuesday, is strongly supportive of Israel and has in the past supported the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.