US Ambassador’s Comments Ignite Diplomatic Row with Israel

Ambassador Daniel Shapiro's said law in the West Bank is applied differently to Palestinians and Israelis. (Dept. of State, Wikimedia, file)

Israeli leaders on Tuesday sharply criticized U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro’s observation that the law in the occupied West Bank is applied differently to Palestinians and Israelis, calling it “unacceptable” and demanding a retraction.

Shapiro’s comments would strike many as a statement of fact: Palestinians in the West Bank live under military occupation, face Israeli military tribunals and can be held for months, even years, without charges; the Jewish settlers in the territory, however, are subject to Israeli civilian courts.

But the plainly critical remarks by the U.S. diplomat in a speech at a security think tank Monday angered Israel’s top leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called them “unacceptable and wrong.”

The diplomatic skirmish comes as Israel finds itself facing renewed criticism from the European Union for the continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a complaint that Shapiro echoed in his remarks.

It also follows on the heels of another diplomatic dust-up. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom recently called for “thorough, credible investigations” into “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinian attackers or suspects by Israeli forces. Wallstrom’s comments incensed Israeli officials, who said she was no longer welcome in their country.

In his speech, Shapiro said, “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.”

The U.S. diplomat was referring to assaults and acts of vandalism by Jewish extremists against Palestinians, including a July arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma that killed a toddler and his parents.

– Read more: U.S. Ambassador’s Comments Ignite Diplomatic Row with Israel – WP

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