(CNN)The US Ambassador to Israel inaugurated a contentious archaeological dig in Jerusalem Sunday, in an act which a senior Palestinian official described as that of an "extremist Israeli settler."
Anger as US envoys attend opening of controversial Jerusalem archaeological site
David Friedman, along with White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Sara Netanyahu, wife of the Israeli Prime Minister, were among those present at the inauguration of the Pilgrimage Road site, in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, whose population is overwhelmingly Palestinian.
Pilgrimage Road is part of a large archaeological dig in the area, which lies just to the south of the Old City, known as The City of David.
Israeli archaeologists say it is the ancient road used by Jewish pilgrims on their way to the Temple Mount around two millennia ago. Advocates of the project say it continues to unearth new discoveries about the history of Jerusalem at the end of what is known as the Second Temple period.
Friedman and others wielded sledgehammers to break through a wall and open up a tunnel, dug over the last six years and said to run along the route of Pilgrimage Road.
Speaking at the ceremony, Friedman called Pilgrimage Road "one of the great archaeological discoveries" and said it vindicated US President Donald Trump.
"Were there any doubts about the accuracy, the wisdom, the propriety of President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, I certainly think this lays all doubts to rest," Friedman said.
The US diplomat also responded to what he described as questions over his participation.
"The spiritual creation, the spiritual underpinnings of [American] society, the bedrock of our principles in which we honor the dignity of every human life, those words came from Jerusalem. That is an American heritage. This place is as much a heritage of the United States as it is a heritage of Israel and it illustrates better than anything I could ever say just why the bond between the United States and the state of Israel is so broad, so deep and so unbreakable."