US ambassador grilled by Knesset panel

Shapiro ‘cannot speculate’ about Pollard, refuses to answer inquiry about MK Ben-Ari’s rejected visa.

January 26, 2012 03:26
1 minute read.
Dan Shapiro

Dan Shapiro. (photo credit: Courtesy of US embassy Israel)

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro avoided inquiries from MKs during a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on Wednesday.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) asked Shapiro when Jonathan Pollard would be released from prison.

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He responded that he “cannot speculate about Pollard’s fate.”

In addition, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) asked Shapiro why the US consulate in east Jerusalem will not give him a visa to visit the US. The MK accused the US of putting “an Arab” in charge of granting visas and allowing Hamas members to enter the US, but not him.

Ben-Ari, the sole member of the Eretz Yisrael Shelanu party in the National Union faction, is a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane and a former member of the Kach party, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the US and was banned from the Knesset in 1988.

MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) expressed outrage upon hearing Ben-Ari’s question, saying that a Knesset member should have no problem obtaining a visa.

Shapiro chose not to answer the question, saying only that he is not involved with the consulate’s work.

“You cannot expect a professional diplomat to say more than his president says,” MK Arye Eldad (National Union) pointed out, adding with a grin: “Maybe if [Ben-Ari] behaves himself, he’ll be allowed to visit America.”

Shapiro also said the US encourages the continuation of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Amman.

At the end of the meeting, the US ambassador said he appreciated the opportunity to meet with Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee members, emphasizing the close and important relationship between the US and Israel.

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