U.S. Ambassador Apologizes after Comments Trigger Israeli Outrage

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that he regrets the timing of critical remarks he made about Israel last week, Ha’aretz reported Monday.

In an interview with Army Radio, Shapiro acknowledged that “the timing [of his comments] wasn’t ideal,” though he noted that they “began with a condemnation of the attacks in Otniel and Tekoa.”

The funeral of Otniel resident Dafna Meir, an Israeli mother of six who was stabbed to death in a Palestinian terror attack at the entrance to her home, took place on the same day that Shapiro made his remarks. A pregnant Israeli woman in Tekoa, Michal Froman, was also stabbed and injured that day.

“There was only a sentence or two [in my comments] that caused controversy,” Shapiro added. “But if it has, god forbid, hurt the Meir family or other mourners then I sincerely regret it.” He also said that he spoke with Meir’s husband and assured him that the Obama administration was committed to working for “peace and security, while keeping the possibility of reaching a two-state solution in the future.”

In his comments last week, Shapiro suggested that Israel let some “vigilantism” by its citizens in the West Bank go unchecked. The timing of the allegation prompted Associated Press correspondent Matt Lee to press State Department Spokesman John Kirby as to why Shapiro would criticize Israel just as sanctions on Iran were being lifted and while the country was in the midst of a wave of terrorism.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Shapiro’s remarks “unacceptable and wrong.” He also pushed back against Shapiro’s charge that Israel maintained two standards of justice in the West Bank, saying, “Israel enforces the law against Israelis and Palestinians.” He observed that in contrast, “The Palestinian Authority, which continues to incite and refuses to negotiate, is responsible for the freeze in negotiations.”

The two later held what The Times of Israel called “a friendly half-hour meeting” in order to emphasize that there was “no personal animosity following [the] public spat.”

[Photo: Matty Stern / U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv ]