Several MKs sent a letter to US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on Wednesday denouncing attempts by the “political margins” to damage Israel’s relationship with the United States, a reference to a testy meeting between the American envoy and the hawkish Land of Israel Caucus whose contents were leaked to the public.
“We have no doubt that the alliance between the United States and Israel will endure despite attempts by the political margins in Israel to impugn it,” read the letter, sent at the initiative of Eitan Cabel (Labor) and also signed by MKs Zahava Gal-on (Meretz), Aryeh Deri (Shas), Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid).
On Wednesday, Shapiro reportedly accepted an apology from Land of Israel Caucus members MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Strock (Jewish Home), who in a statement said they had expressed “deep sorrow over the fact that, although the meeting was defined in advance as closed, someone in the room recorded it without their permission and leaked the recording to the press.”
“I found it necessary to make a gesture first and foremost to [Ambassador Dan Shapiro], but also to express our appreciation to the United States for its stance over many years on the side of the State of Israel.” Cabel said. “The perception that a small group is trying to speak out against our friend the United states is embarrassing.”
The meeting between Shapiro and 16 members of the Land of Israel Caucus, which comprises 40 MKs who either openly oppose or are deeply skeptical about land concessions in the framework of Israeli-Palestinian talks, took place on Tuesday.
While a source told The Times of Israel there was “an atmosphere of respect and listening” at the meeting, the leaked recording revealed a substantial amount of criticism leveled at American policy, particularly regarding the ongoing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and the prospect of a final agreement.
Shapiro insisted during the meeting that a final peace treaty resulting from the talks would “protect Israel’s security and would be good for Israel,” according to sources familiar with the conversation.
But MKs were skeptical.
“How can we trust you?” demanded MK David Rotem, of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party. “When have you stood by us in the past?” he asked.
Similar complaints were heard from MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who said the MKs with whom the American administration disagreed were nevertheless elected by the Israeli public, and that imposing American views on them undermined Israeli democracy.
Haviv Retig Gur contributed to this report.