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      US Consular Official Circumvents Conventional Channels

      "Diplomatic incident" between American Consulate in Jerusalem and Shomron Regional Council, which accuses the Americans of not being "above board."
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 5/5/2011, 6:28 PM / Last Update: 5/6/2011, 12:30 PM

      A "diplomatic incident" has arisen between the American Consulate in Jerusalem and the body representing the Jewish residents of Samaria. The latter accuses the Americans of interfering and not being straightforward.

      The story began about a month ago, when Jonathan Cullen, Political Officer at American Consulate in Jerusalem, phoned a resident of the town of Yitzhar and asked to visit the community.

      “He said he wanted to meet with me,” said Avraham Binyamin, “as well as with the rabbis of the Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives) yeshiva, and to hear about the book Torat HaMelekh.” Binyamin told INN that he feared that the request had an ulterior motive, as the book in question has aroused much controversy and opposition; it deals with “Jewish warfare in Jewish Law,” including discussions of if and when Jewish Law permits killing enemy civilians.

      Upon further investigation, Binyamin found that his instincts were correct: Cullen had been “caught red-handed” several months earlier touring the Shomron and taking photos of Jewish towns together with the head of Peace Now’s Settlement Tracking Committee, Hagit Ofran 

      David HaIvri of the Shomron Regional Council's Liaison Office, who was personally acquainted with Cullen, asked the consular officer at the time, “Are you a spy?”

      Binyamin informed Cullen, just a few days ago, that he did not want to meet with him, and that if wished to pursue the matter, he should do so via conventional channels.

      Binyamin later explained why he felt the American's behavior is unacceptable: “If the Americans want to act as fair interlocutors, they have to be fair – and not act like a group of con-men who conceal information from their dialogue partners… They are trying every which way they can to find out internal information – and are essentially spying on the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.”

      Undemocratic Interference 
      HaIvri further explained, “Peace Now is an Israeli political organization that belongs to the extreme left wing. For the American government to be cooperating with such groups, interfering with the internal workings of a sovereign, friendly country, is undemocratic and unethical.”

      He noted that the American Consulate in Jerusalem serves as the U.S.liaison to the Palestinian Authority, offering services, news and grants to the Arab sector of Judea and Samaria. Mr. Cullen, asked to respond, said he would pass on the request to the Consulate's Diplomacy Section. 

      HaIvri said that the Shomron Liaison Office “has long facilitated periodic meetings and informative tours of the communities in the Shomron, including in-depth visits to the Barkan industrial park and the research institutes at the University of Ariel."

      Shomron Office Writes to Cullen
      In a personal letter to Cullen, the Shomron Liaison Office explained that it has “initiated a policy of ‘opening the windows’ to the Shomron so that officials such as yourself and your agency can be given a line of communication with the residents... Over the past two years, hundreds of officials, politicians, and media representatives have visited and experienced first-hand the reality of the Jewish communities in the Shomron.

      "By attempting to circumvent this policy, by attempting to contact individuals directly so that they will provide information that [is not] reflective of the communities of the Shomron, you or someone in your name is creating a line of communication that can only lead to misunderstandings.

      “… As you know, the community of Itamar has lost 22 lives [to Arab terrorism] over the years; the issues that may seem to you ‘academic’ are matters of life and death for many of our residents. Levels of coordination and cooperation are necessary and if not managed professionally can send the wrong messages…

      "Of course, additional issues - such as the refusal of the visa section at the American Consulate in Jerusalem to grant the head of the Shomron Regional Council a visa to visit the States, and the myopic funding policy of American organizations such as USAID that fund billions of dollars to the Palestinian Arabs but give zero budgeting to qualified, recognized assistance organizations operating under NGO status among the Jewish residents of the Shomron - only exacerbate the sense that we are denied assistance not because [of] American law, but because we are Jews. In the U.S., this blatant policy of discrimination would not be tolerated even for one day.”