The Justice Department announced earlier this month that the FBI was opening a new investigation into the death of Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh.
Left-wing Democrats on the Hill — including the Squad but not only the Squad — were thrilled; they’d been demanding another investigation. Abu Akleh’s family, which had been pushing for a war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court — of which neither the U.S. nor Israel is a member, pronounced itself reasonably satisfied with the thought of the FBI poking at the IDF.
Israel was furious. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would not cooperate with the investigation, saying, “The IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation, which was presented to the Americans who shared the details.”
Those details were reported in July when the State Department announced that it had accepted the conclusions of the U.S. security coordinator in Israel and the Territories, LTG Michael R. Fenzel, U.S., after he coordinated with both Israelis and Palestinians on an investigation.
The whole thing seemed a bit “off,” coming shortly after both countries had elections. The Biden administration had already been slapping at Israel’s left-of-center government, and from the U.S. point of view, the “wrong” party in Israel won the majority of seats, making it unlikely things would get better. Letting the incoming government know that it would be under investigation seemed like a good idea.
At the same time, Republicans did less well than anticipated by some in the U.S. midterms, perhaps giving the administration more “cover” for its nasty little campaign.
But then the bomb exploded.
No one appears to have counted on Ambassador Thomas Nides — and President Joe Biden — announcing that they had no idea that such an intrusive investigation of a democratic ally had been ordered by the attorney general. Israeli officials told Axios and the Times Of Israel that both the White House and the State Department told the Israeli government they were not behind the decision.
According to Axios, “The messaging … appeared to be an attempt to soften Israeli backlash over the new investigation.” Attorney General Merrick Garland was, it seems, rogue.
Was it true? Keep going.
Recently, the attorney general announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate former President Donald Trump. “Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said.
President Biden, however, said he was not informed before the appointment. “I learned about it when you did,” Biden told reporters, according to journalist Jeff Mason.
Bomb number two.
Israel, particularly under a Netanyahu government, is a problem for the Biden administration, with its views on Iran, a “two state solution” with the Palestinians, sometimes on Russia, and in its insistence that the Abraham Accords are the broadest and best approach to regional security.
The administration prefers that Israel make deals with the Palestinians and the Lebanese — both of which suit Iran — and its downplaying of the Abraham Accords as “normalization agreements.” It was more comfortable with the outgoing prime minister than it will be with the incoming one.
Nothing need be said about how the Biden administration views Trump.
Is the president using the Justice Department to carry out campaigns against them both? Probably, with Biden simply denying that he knows anything.
The administration continually irritated Israel, defying the bipartisan Taylor Force Act to give American funds to the Palestinian Authority (PA) while the PA continues to pay “salaries” to terrorists. It tried (but thus far failed) to put a U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Israel’s capital. And last week the administration announced the creation of a special representative post focused solely on the Palestinians.
This will be an enormous upgrade in relations. A State Department official said, “As the President reiterated in Israel and the West Bank, we remain committed to re-opening our Consulate General in Jerusalem and to the vision of a two-state solution.”
And again, slapping at Trump is the name of the game in the FBI.
The other possibility is that the attorney general is going behind Biden’s back and using his position to carry out a vendetta or two. Mr. Biden says he didn’t know anything about either investigation.
Taking him at his word, why is Garland — then a rogue attorney general — still sitting in his office?