US consul, IDF in flap at roadblock

Civil Administration files complaint after US consul general refuses to undergo security check.

jacob walles 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
jacob walles 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Civil Administration said it filed a complaint with the Foreign Ministry against US Consul-General in Jerusalem Jacob Walles after the diplomat refused to roll down his window or open his door and show identification papers on Wednesday. Sources in the Civil Administration said Walles had arrived at the Beit El checkpoint on his way into Ramallah and that his car had been stopped by IDF soldiers. In accordance with guidelines, the soldiers refused to let Walles's car pass, the sources said. According to the officials, the US consulate car held up traffic at the checkpoint for several minutes and even delayed an ambulance, which was approved for travel from the West Bank to an Israeli hospital, for 10 minutes. The Foreign Ministry said it had not received the complaint. A US official, however, said that Walles had shown identification through the car window but refused to open the door. "When the car pulled up to the roadblock, they identified themselves as being from the consulate," the official said. "The standard diplomatic practice is, there is no requirement for the soldiers to open any of the doors and physically look inside the vehicles." The official said the occupants of the car had refused to open the doors, "because it is not diplomatic practice." The official denied, however, that the vehicle had held up the ambulance, and said the consulate car had cooperated with the IDF to allow the ambulance to continue on its way. Following a short standoff at the checkpoint and after US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones got involved, Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai authorized Walles to pass into Ramallah. Afterward, however, the Civil Administration filed the complaint against Walles. The US official, meanwhile, said that "we were very surprised that they would treat the consul general, or any diplomat, in this way." The official said there had been instances in the past in which soldiers had insisted on opening the doors and the US diplomats had refused, but it had never reached "this extreme." Civil Administration officials said that diplomatic cars with white license plates are not subjected to inspections, but their occupants need to identify themselves when passing through checkpoints. For that purpose, the Foreign Ministry issues special "diplomat cards" that diplomats can present at checkpoints. The US cars are armored vehicles, which makes rolling down the windows impossible. "We don't check the trunk, but we do need to know who is inside that car to ensure that there are no terrorists being smuggled in," the official explained.