Graffiti with a portrait of the journalist Shirin Abu Aqla in Jenin (Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90. Photograph of the writer: Tamir Bergig)
The former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, once claimed that Israel does not have a foreign policy, only a domestic policy. This is exactly the case with the diplomatic problems created following the unfortunate death of the journalist Shireen Abu Aqla. Israel’s decisions on this issue mainly served the needs of Interior, the need to “protect our forces” that are in complex situations, instead of thinking about foreign relations.
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In the background of the case hovers the case of the soldier Elor Azaria and the desire to prevent a similar case that will divide the nation. Immediately after the event, without checking what really happened, the IDF spokesman reacted in a Pavlovian manner by releasing a video showing Palestinians shooting in all directions (which later turned out to be filmed at a different time) just to “prove” that Abu Aqla was shot by Palestinian fire.
Of course, it didn’t work for anyone and only harmed the good name of the IDF. It was necessary to hold an internal military investigation into the case, especially when it comes to a very well-known journalist who is also an American citizen. This is an internal military investigation and not a criminal investigation. The results of the investigation were to change.” “likelihood” that she was accidentally killed by IDF fire, but it is impossible to say for sure.
Alor Azaria. Israel fears a similar case (Photo: Flash90)
In the end, the investigation did not satisfy the Americans because the investigation was military and not criminal without determining personal responsibility – basically the type of investigation that should prevent the Alor Azaria 2 case.
The move by the Americans is quite rare: a demand for an FBI investigation into an incident that happened on the soil of a foreign country and also with the support of members of Congress from both parties who are considered pro-Israel, such as Mitt Romney and Jon Ossoff.
The timing of the publication of the demand is interesting and perhaps not coincidental: shortly after Netanyahu’s victory in the elections while negotiations are underway on the identity of the next Minister of Defense and a few days after the mid-term elections in the United States, when the Democrats stopped the “red wave” (Republican) and managed to hold a small majority in the Senate.
It is possible that the Biden administration, which was electorally strengthened, is trying to signal to the next government, which will be formed in Israel in the coming days, that it is better for it to consider its policy in the territories and the appointment of the Minister of Defense, who may take an extreme line, such as Bezalel Smotrich.
Therefore, the statement of Defense Minister Gantz, who will probably end his post in the coming days, according to which Israel will not cooperate – is no less stupid, especially when Gantz is not currently in a political campaign and can therefore take a line that is less based on “national pride”.
Any defense minister appointed now will probably be more right-wing than Gantz and may not take a more conciliatory line than Gantz on the issue – he will have to present his right-wing “receipts”, especially after Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s election promises to grant soldiers “immunity” for their activities. A head-on collision with the American government is definitely possible.
Palestinian journalists after the death of Shirin Abu Aqla (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
In order to avoid a conflict with the Americans, Israel must cooperate with the American demand. After all, it is likely that the FBI investigation will not reveal anything surprising. It is clear that this is not the Alor Azaria 2 case – there was no intention to kill Shirin Abu Aqla. The only thing that can happen is that a soldier or an officer will have to take responsibility – but the chance of them being criminally responsible is zero.
According to reports, since the beginning of the year, 129 Palestinians have been killed in the territories by security force fire, a significant increase from previous years. There is a debate about how many of them are not involved, but there is no debate that there are some among the dead. We do not know their names and the FBI is not demanding to investigate the cases because they are neither senior journalists nor American citizens. However, the American demand towards Shirin should light a red light on the violent and inevitable results of the continuation of Israel’s policy in the territories.
Since the demand comes from the American political center, and since Israel has nothing to fear from this investigation, Israel should use diplomatic logic and not act on national pride – and perhaps show that Kissinger’s statement is not always valid.
Dr. Eli Friedman is the head of the communication division in the Department of Multidisciplinary Studies, Ashkelon Academic College
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