TEL AVIV (JTA) — The U.S. ambassador to Israel slammed the Israeli legal system in the West Bank, saying, “Too much Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked.”
Daniel Shapiro, speaking Monday at a Tel Aviv conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies, added that “at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank — one for Jews and one for Palestinians.”
Shapiro emphasized the U.S. government stance that a two-state solution is the best solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States is “concerned and perplexed” by recent Israeli government actions on the settlements, “which raise questions about Israeli intentions,” he said.
Shapiro spoke at length about what he said was a U.S. commitment to confront Iran in areas not covered by the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers and implemented Saturday. He mentioned Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran’s ballistic missile program.
“To Israelis, who are understandably suspicious of Iran and anxious about Iran’s nefarious activities in other realms, we say the following: This new nuclear framework leaves the international community united and better equipped to respond to other regional challenges — and to respond ‘without the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran,’ as Secretary Kerry said,” Shapiro said.
He said that U.S.-Israel security cooperation has never been closer, citing Iron Dome and Israel’s other U.S.-sponsored missile defense systems.
“Ask any Israeli national security planner or defense official or top commander—or ask the Prime Minister—and you will hear that our security ties have never been stronger,” he said.
Monday evening, the Prime Minister’s Office of Israel issued a statement condemning Shapiro’s remarks as “unacceptable and incorrect.”
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
Shapiro’s criticism echoes other expressions of concern voiced by the U.S. government in recent weeks.
Following Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s approval of a new settlement in a church compound in the West Bank, State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing that the administration was “deeply concerned” by Israeli actions that demonstrate a lack of commitment to the two-state solution.
Israel’s decision to establish a new settlement “only expands this significant majority of the West Bank that has already been claimed for exclusive Israeli use,” Kirby told reporters, according to Haaretz.
The State Department has also expressed concerns over Israel’s controversial NGO bill, rejecting comparisons between the Israeli proposal requiring registration of foreign-funded NGOs and U.S. laws registering foreign interest lobbyists.