Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on Tuesday, a day after the American envoy leveled sharp criticism over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy, accusing Israel of having two standards of law in the territory — one for Israelis and one another for Palestinians.
The ambassador’s comments on Monday drew a furious response from Israel, but according to Hebrew reports on Tuesday, Netanyahu and Shapiro held a friendly half-hour meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Shapiro came to the Prime Minister’s Office with a group of legislators, and he and Netanyahu reportedly took time to speak one-on-one, apparently seeking to signal that there was no personal animosity following Monday’s public spat. Israeli analysts assess that Shapiro, who tends to publicly highlight the strengths of the US-Israel relationship, would not have delivered the strikingly critical remarks Monday without the support and/or direction of the administration in DC.
The prime minister and the ambassador on Tuesday reportedly discussed Shapiro’s criticisms, as well as the ongoing talks regarding a multi-year military aid package being finalized between the US and Israel — which is of particular significance in the wake of the lifting of sanctions on Iran, and concerns that Tehran will channel money to destabilize the region and to fund terror groups hostile to Israel.
Shapiro’s unusually accusatory comments Monday — 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 Netanyahu, 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, coming on the heels of the murder of one Israeli woman and the wounding of another in West Bank stabbing attacks.
“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, a source of internal division in Israel, are widely seen internationally as major stumbling blocks toward peace since they are built on land the Palestinians claim as part of their future state. Some 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, in near-constant tension with 2.5 million Palestinians.
In his address Monday, Shapiro also condemned the recent stabbing attacks on Israelis as “barbaric acts of terrorism” and slammed anti-Israel incitement.