When US ambassador to Israel David Friedman received a framed photograph of the Old City of Jerusalem last month it confirmed something obvious: Donald Trump’s envoys don’t just support the positions of Israel’s far-right government but stand even further to the right of it.
The picture showed the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque photoshopped out and replaced with a Jewish temple.
In the photo, first published by the Israeli news site Kikar HaShabbat, Friedman is seen grinning from ear to ear while being presented with the framed image, just days after he presided over the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Friedman appears to be delighted at the erasure of the al-Aqsa compound, among the most monumental architecture in historic Palestine, one of the principal sites revered by Muslims all over the world and an iconic symbol of Palestinian identity and nationalism.
The doctored image represents the fantasies of followers of the Temple movement, messianic Jewish extremists who seek the destruction of the al-Aqsa compound and its replacement with a Jewish temple where they would conduct ritual animal sacrifice of around 10,000 animals at a time on Jewish holy days.
The group’s religious supporters believe building the temple will speed up the transition of Israel’s system of government from a mostly secular ethnocracy that privileges Jews, into total theocracy, where Orthodox Judaism is the only law of the land.
The movement’s secular supporters would lose many liberties under a Jewish theocracy, but they campaign for the construction of a Jewish temple regardless, believing it would mean slam-dunking on the Palestinian national movement once and for all.
The chief rabbi of the Temple movement, Yisrael Ariel, formerly served as the deputy of the late Israeli arch-racist Meir Kahane in the 1980s when he was a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Over the years, Ariel has held fast to Kahane’s genocidal views. In 2015, he called to assassinate then-US President Barack Obama, and for a Jewish army to conquer the entire Middle East, including Iran and Turkey, destroying all mosques and churches and killing all Muslims and Christians who do not renounce their religions.
After Friedman’s picture was published, the US embassy to Israel insisted that – despite appearances to the contrary – the photo did not represent any change in Washington’s official stance on al-Aqsa, stating, “The US policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.”'
Read more: Trump’s envoys enable Israel’s worst extremists
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