WASHINGTON – Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, sharply criticized Rep. Rashida Tlaib for what he claimed were her "biased" comments accusing Israel of killing Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
This is the first time Herzog publicly criticizes a U.S. lawmaker since assuming the ambassadorship in November.
Following Abu Akleh's death on Wednesday during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Jenin refugee camp, the Palestinian-American Democrat from Michigan tweeted: "When will the world and those who stand by Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes finally say: 'Enough'? Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability."
In response, Ambassador Herzog said: "One would expect a member of Congress to support our call for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation of this tragic event, rather than rushing to a biased conclusion. Acting as the judge, jury and executioner undermines the causes of justice and peace."
"Let’s put things in context: in the past few weeks, three major deadly terror attacks in the heart of Israel were planned, orchestrated and carried out from Jenin. The IDF went there to thwart another act of terror and was attacked by heavily armed 'Islamic Jihad' terrorists," he added.
Herzog has taken a much more diplomatic tone in his seven months in office than his predecessor, Gilad Erdan, who actively denounced Israel's critics in the Democratic Party as antisemitic. An Israeli official acknowledged that the ambassador "doesn’t tend to confront lawmakers, but sometimes there are lines crossed that we cannot be silent and have to say something and set the record straight in face of biased lies. This was the case here when she basically said Israeli is executing journalists which is a blatant lie."
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Tlaib and her colleagues Reps. Ilhan Omar and Andre Carson are the three U.S. lawmakers to directly and explicitly blame Israel for Abu Akleh's killing, urging the U.S. to hold Israel accountable for this and other ongoing human rights violations. At least seven other House Democrats and three Senate Democrats joined the White House and State Department in urging a thorough investigation and accountability, while stopping short of implicating Israel in her killing.
Her killing sparked further condemnation from the European Union, the United Nations, Turkey and Qatar, as Israeli military sources say it remains unclear from where the gunfire that caused her death originated. Israel has requested a joint investigation of the case with the Palestinian Authority, and to obtain the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for forensic testing — both of which were rejected by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, said that Israel bears full responsibility while speaking at Abu Akleh's funeral, vowing to take the case to the International Criminal Court.