Leaders of the Knesset Land of Israel caucus apologized to U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro after their blunt criticism of American conduct in the peace talks and toward Jonathan Pollard were leaked from a closed meeting with him, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
In the meeting, described by participants as “charged,” the MKs leveled a no-holds-barred attack, accusing the U.S. of bias in favor of the Palestinians and unjustifiably harsh treatment of Pollard.
“How do we know we can trust you?” asked MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu). “When are you going to be on our side?”
“There is pressure on us here that does not befit an ally [to the state of Israel],” MK Nissim Slomiansky (Jewish Home) asserted. “This is not a friendship but a coercion into having us agree to things we don’t want.”
When Shapiro attempted to defend the 28-year incarceration of Pollard, Orit Struck (Jewish Home) dismissed his answers as “unintelligent excuses” and said that “no one in Israel buys them.”
She was referring to his argument that “the U.S. has rule of law and the law says [Pollard] should be in prison. Not even the president is above the law.”
MK Shuli Muallem (Jewish Home) dismissed his response, pointing out that U.S. presidents have virtually unlimited powers to grant executive clemency.
To this, Shapiro’s only reply was that President Obama does not like to exercise his executive privelege and rarely does so.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) told the ambassador: “My lack of confidence stems from the wound called ‘[the] Jonathan Pollard [affair],’ which reeks of anti-Semitism.”
MK Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid) said Pollard’s continued incarceration “belittles Americans’ humanity” and that U.S. President Barack Obama is being “obtuse” regarding the Israeli agent.
Following the discussion, the MKs sent a letter to Shapiro to thank him for the meeting but also demanding that the U.S. not try to dictate terms for an agreement with the Palestinians.
The affair drew the wrath of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni: “Frivolously — and with a lack of understanding and responsibility — they [the Land of Israel Lobby] are hurting our relations with the superpower that is pivotal to Israel’s security,” Livni said, also accusing the MKs of “personally insulting” Shapiro.
One of the attendees had violated the agreement that the meeting with Shapiro be kept confidential by recording it and divulging some of the contents.
Caucus chairpersons Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Struck (Jewish Home) expressed regret over the leak on Wednesday.
Shapiro, who had told them that he was upset about the recording, accepted their apology. He added that, in his opinion, it was a successful and beneficial discussion.
The ambassador met with the Knesset caucus to gather feedback on the peace talks.