NYT Editorial: Israel's Criticism of U.S. Ambassador Shapiro 'Unusually Personal and Unfair'

Gray Lady says Shapiro correctly identified a serious problem when he said Israel has a legal double standard in the West Bank.

United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv. January 18, 2016.
Chen Galili

The New York Times Editorial took issue Friday with Israeli officials' criticism of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who said last week that it seems Israel has two legal systems in the West Bank, leaving settlers' "vigilantism" unchecked.

Lamenting what it called "unfair rebukes" from Netanyahu and his right-wing government - which culminated in a former aide to Netanyahu calling Shapiro a "Jewboy" - the Times wrote that the ambassador had correctly questioned Israel's commitment to the two-state solution and legal response to settler violence against Palestinians.

"The criticism of Mr. Shapiro, a vigorous advocate for Israel, was unusually personal and unfair. He correctly identified a serious problem," the Gray Lady's editorial said, conceding that though "Israelis are understandably on high alert to defend themselves," the fact that Palestinians are subject to military courts while settlers fall under the Israeli civilian judicial system is a problematic disparity which will only become more "acute" should Israel abandon the two state solution.

"Israel is moving quickly to establish facts on the ground that preclude a Palestinian state, leaving Palestinians increasingly marginalized and despairing," the Times wrote, citing an American official's claim that "It is starting to look like a de facto annexation.”  Accented by "odious" legislation aimed at silencing groups that advocate for Palestinian human rights and fight the occupation and settlements, the trend could kill any chance at an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the editorial claimed.

"Even truth-telling can ignite a firestorm," the paper wrote about Jerusalem and the White House's tense relations as Obama entered his final year in office, urging Israel - and the Palestinians too - to heed the White House's calls to rethink the current trajectory, before it becomes too late.

Shapiro, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, said that "too much Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked," adding that "there is a lack of thorough investigations at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank - one for Israelis and one for Palestinians."

Shapiro added that the two-state solution is the only way to prevent Israel from turning into a bi-national state, and said a way must be found to preserve its viability. He noted that the American administration is "concerned and perplexed" in wake of the Israeli government's policy on the settlements, "which raise questions about Israeli intentions." 

The Prime Minister's Office rejected allegations of double standards shortly after Shapiro's speech and issued a response saying "the ambassador's statements, on the day when a mother of six who was murdered is buried, and on a day when a pregnant woman is stabbed – are unacceptable and wrong."