Dianne Feinstein blasts Nikki Haley for blocking UN Gaza investigation

Senator slams US Jerusalem embassy opening as a ‘serious mistake’; Bernie Sanders tweets video which says Palestinians have ‘right to return to their former homes inside Israel’

Senator Dianne Feinstein (California-Democrat) speaking to members of the media in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (California-Democrat) speaking to members of the media in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was “deeply disappointed” in Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, for stopping the UN Security Council from investigating Israeli actions on the border with the Gaza Strip.

“I’m deeply disappointed in Ambassador Haley’s decision to block a UN inquiry into yesterday’s events,” Feinstein, who is Jewish, said Tuesday in a statement. “Without question there should be an independent investigation when the lives of so many are lost.”

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 60 Palestinians were killed in the violent demonstrations at the fence between Gaza and Israel on Monday, the same day that the United States dedicated its new embassy in Jerusalem, and two were killed on Tuesday.

Israel accused Hamas of organizing the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks and damage security infrastructure, pointing to a video in which a Hamas official said 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed in clashes on Monday and Tuesday were members of the terror group.

The protests at the fence have been held weekly for close to two months, but intensified on the day of the embassy opening, leading to condemnations worldwide of Israel and the United States.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaking at a UN Security Council meeting concerning the violence at the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip, at United Nations headquarters, May 15, 2018 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Haley used the threat of a US veto on the Security Council to block proposals for an inquiry and berated the council for even considering the issue.

“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” Haley said.

“No one would,” she said. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.”

Haley said that those who blame the embassy opening for the Gaza violence are “sorely mistaken.”

“The violence comes from those who reject the existence of the State of Israel in any location,” she said. “Such a motivation – the destruction of a United Nations Member State – is so illegitimate as to not be worth our time in the Security Council, other than the time it takes to denounce it.”

Feinstein, a California Democrat, called on protesters to “remain peaceful,” but appeared to lay much of the blame on the embassy opening and what she suggested was a lack of restraint by Israel.

“While protests must remain peaceful, Israeli forces must exercise greater restraint in the use of live ammunition,” she said. “President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy was a serious mistake that will reverberate throughout the region. US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should have been resolved in the context of broader peace negotiations where both sides benefit.”

Feinstein had voted for a 1995 law calling for the US to move its embassy and in June 2017 voted in favor of a bill saying “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, in a video posted on social media, also juxtaposed the embassy opening with the violence on the Gaza border. “The embassy move brought tensions to a boiling point,” the Sanders video said.

The video described the protesters as “demanding an end to the ten-year blockade” Israel imposed on the Strip after a season of intensive rocket fire on Israel, “an end to the occupation, and the right to return to their former homes inside Israel.”

The implied acceptance of a Palestinian claim to “former homes inside Israel” is unusual for a senior US lawmaker. Sanders, who in 2016 challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, is the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests.

“Young American Jewish activists protested the embassy move,” the video said, running footage of a protest by the left-wing IfNotNow group Monday in Washington, DC.

The video said that Sanders and another 12 senators have written to US Secretary of State Mike Pomepo urging him to take steps to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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