In marmur

By Rabbi Dow Marmur.

The Netanyahu government is getting under the skin of the United States Administration. US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro echoed it earlier this week when he spoke in Tel Aviv at a conference organized by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. We can safely assume that what he said had been vetted by the State Department, perhaps also by the White House.

The key sentence in Shapiro’s address was that “at times it seems that Israel has two standards of adherence to the rule of law in the West Bank – one for Jews and one for Palestinians.” The immediate reference may have been the approval of the establishment of yet another settlement but the scope of the allegation is much wider.

The ambassador also had in mind the many instances of vigilante settlers getting away with various infractions of the law, like damaging Palestinians’ crops, because the Israeli authorities allegedly turn a blind eye when Jews are the suspects. It even took a long time – and only after a public outcry – before the Jews allegedly responsible for the arson in the village of Duma that devastated a Palestinian family were charged. And we can only imagine what crimes the Jewish settlers now held in administrative detention may have committed. Are they or their ilk also responsible for the not infrequent attacks on churches and mosques?

Shapiro’s ostensibly undiplomatic language seems to reflect the US Administration’s frustration with the lack of progress toward the so-called two-state solution. Yes, the Palestinian Authority (PA), for reasons of its own, doesn’t seem to be very keen to make peace – it is it that’s responsible for the diplomatic freeze, the Prime Minister Office declared – but apparently the United States believes that Israel could do more to get the PA onboard.
Also this: The longer the occupation continues the greater the danger, I’ve heard it said, for the Islamic State (ISIS) to take control first of Gaza and then of the West Bank.

The response from Netanyahu’s office was powerful: “The words of the ambassador, on a day in which a murdered mother of six is buried and on a day when a pregnant woman is stabbed – are unacceptable and incorrect. “ The question is if this really addresses the issues that concern the United States and whether a more open Israeli approach wouldn’t also prevent, or at least greatly reduce, the terror attacks.

On the other hand, the father of the 15-year boy now arrested for having carried out the attack that killed the mother of six declared that he’s proud of what his son had done. In a climate that breeds the boy’s action and the father’s support there can be little hope for a peaceful solution. Netanyahu’s repeated contention that the PA incites its population to violence may be more correct that we’d like to admit.

Despite all this, both Americans and Israelis are anxious to assure us that the security cooperation between the two countries is closer than ever. It seems that this isn’t only because the United States is committed to the existence and the future of Israel, but also, as is frequently stressed, a strong Israel is very much in America’s interest, not least because the spread of ISIS.

An aside: Dan Shapiro is a practicing Jew. Though he doesn’t speak on behalf of American Jewry he may nevertheless reflect something of its reportedly growing disillusionment with Israel. Netanyahu’s emotional response may not cut much ice in Washington but it may be appreciated in Jewish communities around the country as well as elsewhere in the Diaspora.

Looking at what’s being said it seems reasonable to conclude that both the US Administration and the Government of Israel each have a strong case. And if you ask, as in “Fiddler on the Roof,” how it’s possible for both sides to be right, you may be right too.

Jerusalem 19.1,16

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