Israel is a sovereign country and can decide for itself regarding its rules of engagement, explained US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides when he spoke on Monday at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York.
“We are constantly reviewing our rules of engagement,” he said. “I have done hundreds of events with the IDF and they are a phenomenal military, so I am one who always hopes to continue to improve. Israel is a sovereign country and will make their own decisions.”
In terms of US policy in the region, he explained that he spent plenty of time with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and in coordination with them, the US is “continually encouraging equal access to the West Bank, trying to improve that and to the credit of the IDF, it’s not perfect, but we’re trying.”
Nides acknowledges the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
The subject is a particularly hot topic in light of the recent death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, which the IDF announced just weeks ago might have been caused by an accidental shooting by an IDF shooter.
"My heart breaks for Shireen’s family. The IDF concluded, as did we, that it was likely that the IDF likely unintentionally shot her. This is a dangerous place. She’s a reporter, my wife is a reporter. It’s difficult to do these jobs, but we need to make sure the media can cover these stories."Thomas Nides, US Ambassador to Israel
“My heart breaks for Shireen’s family,” he said. “The IDF concluded, as did we, that it was likely that the IDF likely unintentionally shot her. This is a dangerous place. She’s a reporter, my wife is a reporter. It’s difficult to do these jobs, but we need to make sure the media can cover these stories.”
Iran nuclear negotiations
On the subject of recent concerns surrounding Iran, Nides said, “[US President Joe] Biden has made it clear he will not let Iran get a nuclear weapon.”
This is in light of recent talks surrounding the development of a new Iranian nuclear deal, which has been the source of tensions for Israel on a consistent basis.
“The ball is in Iran’s court,” he said, adding that Biden has been very clear about this. “Ultimately, we believe the right thing is to have a diplomatic solution to this.”
Nevertheless, whether Israel likes the deal or not, it will always be privy to such things, or as Nides called it, “complete transparency.”
Nides also elaborated on Biden’s recent visit to Israel, saying that he thought it was a “hell of a trip.”
“His holding the hands of Holocaust survivors at Yad Vashem, giving them kisses, showed his caring of Israel and this unbreakable tie we have with the US,” he continued. “He has lived this for the past 45 years.”
He then claimed that the two-state solution is one of the main components of maintaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
“We need to send a message about the unbreakable security alliance between the US and Israel, the IDF and Defense Department,” he said. “Part of that is maintaining the vision of the two-state solution. And we spent a lot of time trying to keep that vision alive. We push all the time. We push the Palestinians – we support and enforce the Taylor Force Act – and we push the Israelis. There are agreements and disagreements.”
Israel-Lebanon maritime conflict
Finally, discussing the recent Israeli-Lebanese maritime conflict, Nides said that the US will do everything in its power to keep the altercation from becoming militarily active.
“I do not believe Israel wants a military conflict with Lebanon and I don’t think Lebanon or Hezbollah wants one with Israel,” he concluded. “We’re going to do everything we can do to keep that from happening.”