US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro should “correct himself” and recant his allegations that the government applies a different set of laws to Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Army Radio on Tuesday.
The envoy’s remarks at the Institute for National Security Studies conference on Monday questioning Israel’s vigilance in preventing Jewish vigilante attacks against Palestinians struck a raw nerve with the government.
“As Israel’s devoted friend and its most stalwart partner, we believe that Israel must develop stronger and more credible responses to questions about the rule of law in the West Bank,” Shapiro said at the conference, which took place at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
He noted that the recent indictments in the Duma murders “are an important demonstration of Israel’s commitment to prosecute acts of terrorism, regardless of their source,” Shapiro added, however, “too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities.”
Three Palestinians were killed by an arson attack in Duma, for which authorities have indicted far-right extremist settler Amiram Ben-Uliel.
“Too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seems to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law, one for Israelis, and another for Palestinians,” he asserted.
Shapiro’s comments came as part of some “critical questions” that he said needed to be asked of both Israelis and Palestinians.
“The US ambassador said a lot of positive things in his speech,” Shaked told Army Radio. “But he uttered a sentence that was, to say the least, incorrect from a factual and a moral standpoint. It’s something that did not need to be said.”
“We are being subjected to a terrorist onslaught that is simply unfamiliar to the US, and to pass judgment on us in such a one-sided manner is wrong,” the minister said. “It would be appropriate if [Shapiro] corrected himself, and I hope he does that.”
On Tuesday evening, at the same INSS conference where Shapiro set off fireworks the day before, Shaked announced the creation of a new Justice Ministry unit for overseeing the legality of military targeting decisions and the IDF’s implementation of the laws of war.
She said that increasing civilian lawyers’ involvement in the oversight would bring the state’s compliance with international law to another level, while complimenting the IDF’s international law division, which has largely managed targeting decisions until now.
The justice minister also made a familiar point – that Israel is a laboratory test for the new and most difficult questions about applying international law to fighting terrorism and moving beyond the original interpretations of the Geneva Conventions which were “written to address classic warfare” between armies.
Shaked said she had promoted Knesset legislation to give the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) broader powers for fighting terrorism.
She said she was especially proud of this accomplishment because Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen had personally expressed frustration to her when she took office that legislation on the matter had been stuck for five years.
Looking to the future, she expressed optimism that the appointment of Avichai Mandelblit as the state’s next attorney- general, beginning February 1, will help fight international law-based criticisms of Israel, since he was credited with beating back the 2009 Goldstone Report’s war crimes allegations when he served as the IDF’s top lawyer.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.