What does the DOJ investigation mean for the US-Israel relationship?

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) criticized the decision saying, "Israel has already conducted a complete and thorough investigation."

 picture of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli army gunfire during an Israeli raid, according to the Qatar-based news channel, is displayed in Al-Jazeera headquarter building in Doha, Qatar, May 11, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/IMAD CREIDI)
picture of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli army gunfire during an Israeli raid, according to the Qatar-based news channel, is displayed in Al-Jazeera headquarter building in Doha, Qatar, May 11, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/IMAD CREIDI)

WASHINGTON – The reports about the US Department of Justice’s decision to launch an investigation into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh caught many people in Washington by surprise. It is not every day that the US launches an investigation into the armed forces of another country, and there is no recent precedent for such action regarding an allied country.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Tuesday criticized the decision.

“In cooperation with the US, Israel has already conducted a complete and thorough investigation of this tragic incident,” said Marshall Wittmann, AIPAC’s spokesman. “Israel, like the US, would rightly not accept an uncoordinated investigation of the actions of its troops by a foreign entity,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DOJ declined to comment or to provide additional information about the decision.

“In cooperation with the US, Israel has already conducted a complete and thorough investigation of this tragic incident,”

AIPAC's Spokesperson Marshall Wittman

What are more reactions to the FBI's investigation?

 PALESTINIAN CHILDREN walk past a mural of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Bethlehem. (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90) PALESTINIAN CHILDREN walk past a mural of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Bethlehem. (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)

“This is outrageous,” said Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to Washington and former deputy foreign minister. “It puts Israel on a par with the Islamists who murdered Daniel Pearl in 2002 – the only death of an American journalist overseas ever investigated by the FBI. This is an affront to Israel’s military and judiciary, which thoroughly investigated Abu Akleh’s tragic death, and a violation of Israel’s sovereignty.”

“Such disrespect would be incompatible in relations between any two independent nations, much less close allies,” Oren said.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, said it was extremely unlikely that the new investigation will reveal any new information.

“This is highly irregular and deeply inappropriate and will unquestionably be viewed by the IDF and the Israeli security establishment as not only unnecessary but deeply offensive,” he said. “The IDF is a professional, modern military that conducts its own reviews and has often taken punitive action against soldiers that have acted in ways not in accordance with IDF guidelines,” he added.

“We know this history,” Schanzer said. “The US knows this history, and yet they have launched a second investigation after already conducting one. This will not go down easily in Israel.”

Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said: “There is no serious justification for the FBI intervention, so I attribute it to politics.”

“It does suggest mistrust of the Israeli investigation, and I see no basis for that mistrust,” he said. “Why now? That’s a very good question to which there is no good answer – except waiting until after the US election to make the announcement.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), on the other hand, tweeted: “This is an overdue but necessary and important step in the pursuit of justice and accountability in the shooting death of American citizen and journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh.”