US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on Monday leveled sharp criticism against Israel’s West Bank settlement policy, and alleged Israel had two standards of law in the territory, one for Israelis and one another for Palestinians.
The comments — coming on the day that an Israeli mother-of-six killed by a Palestinian terrorist was laid to rest, and a pregnant woman was injured in a second attack– drew a harsh response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, who called the remarks “unacceptable and incorrect.”
While Shapiro praised the the progress made in the investigation of the deadly arson attack on a Palestinian family by suspected Jewish extremists — a far-right wing Jewish extremist was this month charged with the murder of the Dawabsha family in Duma last July — he asserted that too often Israel turns a blind eye to settler violence against Palestinians.
“Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities; too much vigilantism goes unchecked; and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians,” Shapiro said at the INSS security conference in Tel Aviv.
Shapiro went on describe the US administration as “concerned and perplexed” by Israel’s settlement policy which he said raised “honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”
“This government and previous Israeli governments have repeatedly expressed support for a negotiated settlement that would involve mutual recognition and separation,” he said. “Yet separation will become more and more difficult” if Israel continues to expand settlements, Shapiro said.
The comments were met with a harsh response from Netanyahu’s office, which also chafed at the timing of the remarks, closely following two stabbing attacks on Israeli women in the West Bank.
“The words of the ambassador, on a day in which a murdered mother of six is buried and on a day in which a pregnant woman is stabbed — are unacceptable and incorrect,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office read. “Israel enforces the law for Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority is the one responsible for the diplomatic freeze, and continues to incite and refuse talks.”
The settlements are seen as major stumbling blocks toward peace efforts since they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. Some 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements in near-constant tension with 2.5 million Palestinians.
Shapiro also condemned the recent stabbing attacks on Israelis as “barbaric acts of terrorism” and anti-Israel incitement.