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Israel apologizes for flap between Indyk, Knesset member

WASHINGTON, March 11 (JTA) — The Israeli Foreign Ministry has formally apologized for an incident in which a member of Knesset hurled an anti-Semitic epithet at U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, himself a Jew. Still smarting from being called a “yehudon” by Rehavam Ze’evi during a recent parliamentary session on the peace process, Indyk reportedly stared the right-wing Knesset member down at a chance meeting last week. Ephraim Sneh, a Labor Party member of Knesset who was nearby, told reporters that Indyk turned to Ze’evi and said, “The last time someone called me a Jew boy I was 15 years old and he got a punch in the face.” Ze’evi, a member of the right-wing Moledet Party replied, “Try me,” and again called Indyk to his face “yehudon,” apparently for pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. According to Sneh, Indyk shot back, “You are a disgrace to the State of Israel,” to which Ze’evi replied in English: “And you are a son of a bitch.” After the ceremony where the exchange took place, Ze’evi approached Indyk and apologized. The exchange prompted a rare Foreign Ministry statement criticizing a member of Knesset. In addition, the ministry’s director general, Eitan Bentsur, called Indyk to apologize. Indyk, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a rising star in the U.S. diplomatic corps, is on the short list to become assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, the top post for Mideast policy. The State Department had its own reaction to the flap. Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said, “I won’t repeat what the gentleman said, I mean if I call him a gentleman.” Everyone who knows Indyk knows that “he’s an honorable person, he does not deserve to be insulted publicly. He represents the president,” Burns said.

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