Israeli or Palestinian, it doesn’t matter who the perpetrators are. There is no justification for the use of violence.
This was the premise set by Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, while speaking at the annual meeting of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
It was a reasonable argument. Yet, it managed to irk the ire of Israeli authorities.
Since October, Palestinian attackers allegedly killed 25 Israelis and a U.S. citizen while more than 148 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, 94 of whom the authorities have described as assailants.
Shapiro condemned Palestinian stabbings as “barbaric acts of terrorism.” But he also criticized Israel for not doing enough to put an end to “unchecked vigilantism” by Jewish extremists in the West Bank.
"Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities, too much vigilantism goes unchecked,” he said. “At times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law - one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”
Predictably, Shapiro’s accusation of Israel’s hypocrisy has prompted backlash from the Israeli government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office quickly issued its response: “Israel enforces the law against Israelis and Palestinians,” the statement said. “The Palestinian Authority, which continues to incite and refuses to negotiate, is responsible for the freeze in negotiations.”
As hard as it is for Israel to accept it, the U.S. envoy’s claim is not unfounded. He used data from the findings of Israeli human rights group Yesh Din to support his statement.
In 2014, the nonprofit, that had been tracking 1,045 complaints filed to it by Palestinians since 2005, reported 92 percent of Palestinian complaints of Jewish hate crimes in the occupied West Bank are closed and the perpetrators were never detained or prosecuted.
Instead of coming up with sharp responses against Shapiro, perhaps the Israeli authorities should focus more on improving their justice system which is, in part, responsible for the uptick in violence in the West Bank.