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10 Feb, 2018 02:40

US ambassador clashes with Israeli Haaretz paper over who lacks more ‘decency’

An Haaretz columnist, who has been attacked for an opinion piece criticizing David Friedman’s support for Israeli settlements, has told RT he stands by the freedom of speech, something the US ambassador knows little about.

“I still think, and cannot think otherwise, that all the settlements are in violation of international law,” Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, at the center of the recent scandal, told RT. “I guess the ambassador knows too little about freedom of speech, about the right to criticize even his Excellency the Ambassador to the United States.”

The story began developing on Monday, when a 29-year-old Rabbi Ben Gal was stabbed and later succumbed to wounds in a fatal attack near the entrance to Har Bracha, a West Bank settlement located between Ariel and Nablus. The alleged terrorist, a 19-year old Israeli-Arab resident of Jaffa, Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, fled the scene. While searching for the suspect, a large number of IDF troops entered the village of Kifl Haris which triggered clashes with local Palestinians. At least one Palestinian was killed in the confrontation, and dozens of others injured, while the attacker has still not been found.

The murder of the Rabbi prompted a strong reaction from US Ambassador David Friedman, Donald Trump’s protege and a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements. “Twenty years ago I gave an ambulance to Har Bracha hoping it would be used to deliver healthy babies. Instead, a man from Har Bracha was just murdered by a terrorist,” Friedman tweeted Tuesday, adding that “Palestinian ‘leaders’ have praised the killer.”

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Friedman’s tweet produced a strong backlash from the Palestinians, as well as from Haaretz correspondent Levy, who in his Wednesday column accused Friedman of “encouraging and funding war crimes and violations of international law.”

“Friedman thought the ambulance would only be used to transport healthy babies, he wrote this week, but there are no ambulances that carry only healthy babies,” Levy wrote Wednesday. “We can forgive him this deception; it’s not the most serious deception by the occupation-friendly ambassador.”

Levy played of Friedman’s message further adding that “with Friedman’s ambulance or without it, Har Bracha (literally, ‘Mountain of Blessing’) is a mountain of curses.”

The US diplomat chose not to let it slide and fired back, wondering: “What has become of @Haaretz? Four young children are sitting shiva (mourning) for their murdered father and this publication calls their community a ‘mountain of curses.’ Have they no decency?”

Levy, speaking to RT on Friday, put the ball back in Friedman’s court, asking: “Does the US have no decency?”

“The United States declares at least, at least declares, that it is against the settlement’s project. And here we have an ambassador who is one of the biggest friends of the occupation, one of the biggest fans of the settlements project contributing money to the settlements, to the most extreme ones. This itself is a lack of decency!” Levy told RT.

He reiterated his firm opposition to the Israeli occupation, stressing that settlements were built to “prevent any kind” of a peace deal with the Palestinians. “I believe that the settlement of Har Bracha is there in order to try and to prevent the nature and development of a big Palestinian city, namely Nablus. And I think that if Har Bracha wouldn’t have been there and the other settlements would not have been there, things for most Israelis would have been much easier and much more simple. The same for Palestinians.”

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew and former bankruptcy lawyer who worked for Trump’s real estate empire, has been an outspoken advocate for Israel’s claim to Jerusalem. Although lacking a formal background in diplomacy, he was a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, vowing that a Trump White House would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Tel Aviv to the contested holy city. Trump announced his intention to do this on December 6 last year, breaking with decades of US policy that the city’s status must be decided between Israel and the Palestinians.

Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital drove a stake through the heart of the two-state peace process, which envisions East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, Levy believes.

“This declaration, as hollow as it might be, put an end to the masquerade. I mean by this Donald Trump declared the end of the two-state solution,” the Haaretz correspondent told RT. “Donald Trump signed on the death certificate of this solution.”

“Ever since Donald Trump’s speech about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, there were 26 people killed, out of them 24 were Palestinians,” Levy said, noting that all of them were “killed for nothing.”

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