Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman on Tuesday slammed the US administration for what he called its "mischievous and troubling" decision to seek clarification from Israel over last Saturday's IDF operation in Nablus.
In the wake of the operation, in which the IDF killed three Fatah men it said were behind the terrorist attack last Thursday in which Rabbi Meir Chai was gunned down, Washington passed on to Israel concerns from the Palestinian Authority about the IDF's actions and also sought clarifications of its own.
Israel's Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said that the request for clarification came from the White House and that it was "understandable."
Foxman told The Jerusalem Post, however, that while the US was a welcome and often necessary intermediary in peace efforts, "this is something new. This is America getting involved in combat situations."
After the Palestinians turned to the US to complain about the operation, it was disturbing, said Foxman, to see the Americans ask Israel "for explanations and justifications."
"Now what?" asked the ADL chief. "They'll be the judge of who is right and who is wrong? ... They're not the blue helmets [peacekeeping forces]."
He said such intervention would "undermine the US capacity to play the honest broker and mediator" in future peace talks. "If this is a new policy, it is fraught with negative unforeseen consequences."
Washington reportedly conveyed to Israel concerns raised by the PA over why the raid was carried out without its forces being given an opportunity to arrest the men.
Asked by the Post whether there was something out of the ordinary about the US seeking clarification, Oren said: "The only thing out of the ordinary is that it didn't happen before. What I think is out of the ordinary is that the three terrorists came from [Fatah's] Al Aksa, not Hamas, and one had come in under the amnesty, and he still has an arsenal of weapons and is killing Israelis. That shows a possible problem with the amnesty program."
Oren said it was clear that Washington wants PA President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table, "and they want [Israel] - if we can - to refrain from measures that might in some way delay his return. On the other hand we have to defend ourselves, and this administration has been particularly good on security interests."
Questioned as to whether the US had been angry about the operation, Oren said, "No, they just sought a clarification. I do not know of any anger. They understand the complexity of it and understand we have the right and the need to defend ourselves."
The ambassador noted that Israel "has been trying to work very much in cooperation with the Palestinian security forces, and they [the Palestinians] are very sensitive to IDF action there. We have done our best to show restraint, but when it comes down to it there was no choice but to act."
Meanwhile, Oren told Army Radio on Tuesday that the US administration is heading toward imposing "paralyzing" sanctions on Iran. He added that the US had also not abandoned the military option.
Oren went on to reject claims that US President Barack Obama was trying to downgrade relations between Washington and Jerusalem, saying, "The man is very warm towards usâ€¦ I hope that during the next year he will also come [to Israel], and bring that [warmth] to the Israeli public."
Oren is in Jerusalem this week to participate in a conference with 140 other ambassadors and consul generals.