Justice Minister Shaked: U.S. Criticism 'Unacceptable' and 'Distorts Reality'

In opening session of Israeli expat conference, Ambassador Dermer says Israel and U.S. formulating 'common policy' against 'continuing dangers' from Iran.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Ayelet Shaked.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked strayed from diplomatic protocol Saturday night by attacking the U.S. administration on American soil. Shaked described recent American statements that were critical of Israel’s handling of the recent outbreak of Palestinian violence as “unacceptable." She said that "any comparison between Israel and the Palestinians” like the ones made by the administration “is a distortion of reality."

At the same time, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer announced that despite their recent differences over the Iran deal, Jerusalem and Washington were now engaging in formulating “common policy to confront the continuing dangers concerning Iran.” Dermer said that the two countries would be holding intensive talks in upcoming weeks, culminating in the November meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, with the aim of “dramatically upgrading Israel’s ability to defend itself by itself."

Shaked and Dermer were speaking to over one thousand delegates at the opening night of the second annual conference of the Israeli-American Council  (IAC) being held at the Washington Hilton. Established in Los Angeles in 2007 with the financial backing of Haim Saban, the group has grown exponentially in recent years after Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson became its main benefactor. Last month it was reported that Saban had suspended his ties to the group for unspecified reasons, with knowledgeable sources linking the move to claims the IAC had taken a political turn to the right – the group participated in the protests against the Iran nuclear deal – or to Saban’s support for Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

According to the reports, Saban had also pulled out of the joint task force he had established with Adelson against the international boycott movement BDS. Shaked told the audience that she had instructed the Justice Ministry to try and find ways of utilizing local laws in European countries in order to prosecute BDS activists for racism and anti-Semitism. She said Israel must seize the initiative and “move from defense to offense” against the boycott movement.

The leader of the Israeli opposition, Zionist Camp Chairman Isaac Herzog, said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had wanted to resign several months ago, a prospect that the Israeli leadership “wasn’t too excited about.” Herzog said that Abbas had told him in a recent meeting that he was worried about a third Palestinian Intifada because of the danger that Palestinian youth would be out of control.

Herzog dismissed talk of joining the coalition, saying that for that to happen “Netanyahu has to realize that he must change course and I have no reason to assume that he will do so.” Netanyahu is immobilized, he said, because of political realities “and threats from Shaked," who was sitting in the audience. Earlier, Shaked had asserted that "our government opposes a Palestinian state." 

Several U.S. Congressmen are also participating in the conference, including Democrat Brad Sherman who savaged the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was not “morally or legally binding on the American people.” In a particularly distasteful play on words, Sherman said the deal doesn’t “give peace a chance” but “gives pieces a chance” saying that the “pieces” are those of men women and children who are victims of the Iranian regime.

The conference will continue today with addresses by Israeli ministers, legislators and journalists. Some 50 Israeli expat groups associated with IAC will present their activities and products to the delegates.