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Nationalists 'Apologize' to US Ambassador After Stormy Meeting

Land of Israel Lobby in the Knesset issues apology Wednesday after meeting with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro goes south.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/26/2014, 5:32 PM

Dan Shapiro
Dan Shapiro
Flash90

The Knesset’s Land of Israel Lobby issued an apology to US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro Wednesday, according to Channel 2, after MKs participating in the discussion delivered tough comments about the US's relationship with Israel and role in peace talks. 

Shapiro met with the Knesset Lobby to gather feedback from the Israeli government about the direction of ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to the daily.

While no official details of the contents of this agreement have been made public, American Jewish leaders who were briefed by envoy Martin Indyk said several weeks ago that it mentions a Palestinian state with borders based on the 1949 Armistice lines and with land swaps between Israel and the PA. 75 to 80 percent of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria would remain in their homes even after a permanent agreement.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who is considered close to the Obama administration, has also published some details of Kerry’s plan which, he said, will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with "unprecedented" security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley.

According to the Channel 10 report, Washington wishes to know in advance what the reaction from the right side of the political map to Kerry’s proposal will be.

"It is a fundamental interest of the United States that Israel remain a safe, Jewish and democratic state," the US Ambassador emphasized during the meeting. "President Obama spoke about the results of the negotiations and an independent Palestinian state with security arrangements for Israel."

Nationalists: Why can't we trust the US?

Several MKs from the Lobby responded with tough realities - and tougher questions.

MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home) responded harshly to the claim, pointing out, "Mr. Ambassador, we not interested in security arrangements - we are here because of our right to the land."

"How do we know we can trust you?" MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) added. "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) noted. "This is not a friendship but a coercion into having us agree to things we don't want." 

Other tough issues were also brought up during the meeting, including the US's refusal to release Israeli prisoner Jonathan Pollard.

"Do not feed us unintelligent arguments [over Pollard], no one in Israel is buying it," Struk reportedly told Shapiro during the meeting. 

"US aid [to Israel] is a mistake, and I oppose it," MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) reportedly stated to the Ambassador. "My lack of confidence stems from the wound called '[the] Jonathan Pollard [affair],' which reeks of anti-Semitism." 

Following the discussion, the MKs sent a letter to Shapiro in which they thanked him for the meeting but also demanded that the US refrain from dictating to Israel terms of an agreement with the PA.  

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni harshly criticized the statements in the meeting Tuesday night.

"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 fired. She also accused the MKs of "personally insulting" Ambassador Shapiro.   

Shapiro himself reportedly said that he was "disappointed" over the meeting's outcome. Struk called the Ambassador Wednesday afternoon and apologized, according to Channel 2 - not over the content of the meeting, but for the fact that information about the discussion was leaked to the press.