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Ambassador David Friedman (L), White House envoy Jason Greenblatt (C) and Sen. Lindsey Graham. Photo: Tsafrir Abayov/AFP/Getty Images

Together with Israeli officials, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, senior White house officials and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took part Sunday in the opening of a tunnel that runs under the Palestinian village of Silwan in East Jerusalem to the Old City, very close to the Temple Mount.

Why it matters: This is an extraordinary event, as the digging of the tunnel was initiated by a Jewish settler group called Elad. For decades, U.S. government officials refrained from participating in Israeli government events in East Jerusalem — not to mention those led by settler groups.

  • The tunnel is located in a highly sensitive area of Jerusalem called "The Holy Basin," which includes Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.
  • In 1996, when Netanyahu was in his first term as prime minister, the opening of a tunnel near the Western Wall led to riots across the West Bank and Gaza that ended with 17 Israelis and 100 Palestinians dead.   
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The tunnel is part of a major archaeological project pushed by Elad, which aims to settle Jews in a part of East Jerusalem called "the City of David." The tunnel is called "The pilgrimage road" and is located in the same place where the ancient road that led to the Jewish Temple used to be 2,000 years ago.

  • The ceremony was attended by Netanyahu’s wife and two ministers in the Israeli Cabinet, as well as Friedman, Graham, White House envoy Jason Greenblatt and national security council Middle East director Victoria Coates.
  • Other prominent guests included casino mogul and Trump donor Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. The U.S. ambassadors to France, Portugal and Denmark, and State Department envoy for fighting antisemitism Elan Carr, also attended the ceremony.

Friedman was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. He said that the founding of the U.S. was based on the bible and that for this reason, the tunnel is a U.S. heritage site as much as it is an Israeli heritage site.

  • Friedman added that the historic site tells the truth about the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem and claimed that speaking the truth will help the region achieve peace.
  • After the speeches, Friedman, Greenblatt, Graham, Sara Netanyahu and several other guests took heavy hammers and broke a wall to open the tunnel. For several minutes, they hit the wall with the hammers until it was completely torn down.

What they're saying: The Palestinians condemned the U.S. participation at the ceremony, alleging the Trump administration is helping Israel "Judaize" East Jerusalem and "legalize colonial practices in Jerusalem by using a religious cover." The Palestinian Authority announced it would ask the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to intervene and that it would consult with Jordan on how to respond.

  • PLO official Saeb Erekat said: "That is not a U.S. ambassador. That is an extremist Israeli settler, with Greenblatt also there digging underneath Silwan, a Palestinian town. We should show this to all who participated in Manama."

Go deeper: Bahrain official says Palestinians made a mistake by skipping peace conference

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.