U.S. asks Israel tough questions
about assassinations of Palestinian leaders
By Aluf Benn, Ha'aretz Diplomatic Correspondent
Ha'aretz, 02/05 and 02/08/2001
The U.S. State Department has asked Israel to provide a detailed
explanation of the recent "liquidation" of Palestinians in the territories. As
part of its annual survey of human rights violations, the State Department
has submitted a list of names of Palestinians along with the dates they
were killed and asked for information on how these people were killed.
The request was received by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and has been
transfered to the Justice Ministry and Defense officials for a response.
Israeli officials are concerned the State Department report on human
rights violations will severely criticize Israel for the assassinations.
The questions being posed to Israel also involve other aspects of its
collective actions against Palestinians - curfews imposed on the
territories, sieges on Palestinian towns, arrests of Palestinians and
suspicions of excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians.
Israel has tried unsuccessfully to convince the Americans to postpone
publication of the section of the report dealing with the Palestinians on
grounds that its release could prejudice the results of an investigation
currently being conducted by an international committee set up by the
United States and headed by former Senator George Mitchell.
But the U.S. government rejected Israel's argument, noting that the State
Department is legally bound to present its human rights report to
Congress on an annual basis and cannot hold back part of the report.
One Israeli official accused the United States of being "insufficiently
sympathetic to Israel's situation." They have to understand that Israel is
facing an abnormal situation right now, with an exceptional level of
violence, and they should take into consideration the fact that we are not
living in a bubble but with an unpleasant reality," he said.
"No system operates with greater respect and consideration of human
rights and human life than our system. Even in the most difficult of
circumstances, we inspect every one of our actions under a microscope,"
The draft report on Israel is written in consultation between the division
on democracy and human rights within the State Department and the
U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Traditionally, the embassy has tended to be
far more willing to take into account the overall good relations between
Israel and the United States, while the division on democracy and human
rights has been much more hard-nosed.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry is also bracing for the upcoming annual
gathering of the UN Human Rights Commission scheduled to open in
Geneva on March 19. Israel expects to be a target of harsh criticism at
this year's session.
© copyright 2000 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved