After terror attack, US ambassador accuses Palestinians of preventing peace

In unusual statement, David Friedman denounces Hamas for praising drive-by shooting and PA for paying terrorists’ families

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, launched a scathing attack on the Palestinians and their leadership on Wednesday, blaming them squarely for the lack of peace with Israel.

“An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards,” Friedman said in a statement posted to Twitter in response to the killing of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a drive-by shooting attack Tuesday night.

“Look no further to why there is no peace. Praying for the bereaved Shevach family,” he added, echoing accusations leveled by Israeli officials in the wake of the terror attack.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely issued a statement thanking Friedman for his remarks. “Dear Ambassador Friedman, we deeply appreciate your solidarity with Israel. We value your partnership in the fight against terror and your understanding that the Palestinian Authority’s support of terrorists lies at the root of the problem,” she tweeted.

The Palestinian Authority, which has expressed a refusal to engage in peace talks with Israel unless the Trump administration walks back the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has issued no statement on the killing.

MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint (Arab) List faction blasted Friedman’s tweet, accusing the US envoy of “hypocrisy” for failing to condemn incidents in which Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli forces.

“Ambassador Friedman is shocked by death? I didn’t hear him when an Israeli sniper killed double amputee Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh or when the kid Muhammad Tamimi was shot in the head and wounded. Because of this hypocrisy and double standard, and because of the Trump administration’s positions, the conflict is going on and blood is being shed. And when these are the representatives of the administration, don’t ask why there is no peace.”

Rabbi Raziel Shevach with his family, in an undated photo (Courtesy of the family)

The United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East Peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, also appeared to accuse the Palestinians of inciting violence and hindering the peace process, albeit indirectly. “There is no justification for terror and those who condone it, praise it or glorify it. This is not the path to peace! The perpetrators of yesterday’s attack must be brought to justice,” he tweeted.

The German foreign ministry condemned the attack and called on “all parties to act to calm the situation.”

“The deadly attack in which a resident of an Israeli outpost in the West Bank was murdered yesterday is most regrettable. We strongly condemn this execrable murder,” a spokesman said. “We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family and to relatives of the murder victim.

“All those who bear responsibility for this attack or welcome it inflame the violence that makes it difficult to find a solution to the Middle East conflict through negotiation,” the spokesperson continued. “We expect all parties to act to calm the situation.”

Other international condemnations included statements from Martin Weiss, the Austrian ambassador to Israel, who said Raziel was “cowardly murdered,” and US Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who called the attack “horrific” and offered his “profound condolences” and prayers.

Unlike previous US envoys, Friedman was known as a strong supporter of Israeli settlements before he took office, serving as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an organization that supports the large West Bank settlement near Ramallah.

US Ambassador David Friedman (L) pays a condolence call at the home of Likud MK Yehudah Glick in the West Bank settlement of Otniel on January 3, 2018. (Courtesy Har Hebron Regional Council)

That support has continued since his appointment as ambassador. In September, Friedman said that settlements “are part of Israel.”

In November, he canceled an appearance at a memorial ceremony for slain American teen Ezra Schwartz in the wake of a media report that it would be taking place at an illegal West Bank outpost.

Last week, Friedman paid a condolence visit at the home of Likud MK Yehudah Glick in the settlement of Otniel, following the death of his wife.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported that Friedman had asked the US State Department to stop calling Israel’s presence in the West Bank an “occupation” in official documents. He reportedly recommended using the term “West Bank territory” instead of the “occupied territories.”

The State Department rejected the request, according to the report, but agreed to take up the subject again in the future. A State Department official later called the report “twisted and misleading” when asked for comment.

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