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Thursday, January 17, 2008

IDF, 'East Jerusalem consulate' in diplomatic incident

It has long been known among those of us who live here, particularly among the 'American Israelis,' that the US consulate in 'East Jerusalem,' which is located less than a stone's throw away from the former Mandelbaum Gate crossing point, is the de facto American embassy to the 'Palestinians.' A succession of consuls general over the years have been among the State Department's most anti-Israel bureaucrats. The current occupant of the position, Jacob Walles (pictured, top left), is no exception.

Yesterday, Mr. Walles passed an IDF checkpoint on his way to Ramallah. The protocol is that while the IDF does not vehicles with diplomatic license plates, the occupants are required to identify themselves to the soldiers or the soldiers will not let them pass. Mr. Walles refused to identify himself.
The Civil Administration said it filed a complaint with the Foreign Ministry against US Consul-General in Jerusalem Jacob Walles after the diplomat refused to roll down his window or open his door and show identification papers on Wednesday.

Sources in the Civil Administration said Walles had arrived at the Beit El checkpoint on his way into Ramallah and that his car had been stopped by IDF soldiers. In accordance with guidelines, the soldiers refused to let Walles's car pass, the sources said.

According to the officials, the US consulate car held up traffic at the checkpoint for several minutes and even delayed an ambulance, which was approved for travel from the West Bank to an Israeli hospital, for 10 minutes.

The Foreign Ministry said it had not received the complaint.

A US official, however, said that Walles had shown identification through the car window but refused to open the door.

"When the car pulled up to the roadblock, they identified themselves as being from the consulate," the official said. "The standard diplomatic practice is, there is no requirement for the soldiers to open any of the doors and physically look inside the vehicles."

The official said the occupants of the car had refused to open the doors, "because it is not diplomatic practice." The official denied, however, that the vehicle had held up the ambulance, and said the consulate car had cooperated with the IDF to allow the ambulance to continue on its way.

Following a short standoff at the checkpoint and after US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones got involved, Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai authorized Walles to pass into Ramallah.

Afterward, however, the Civil Administration filed the complaint against Walles.
Apparently, because US diplomatic vehicles are armored, the windows cannot be rolled down. I don't understand why they didn't just hold their papers (actually a diplomat ID card) up against the window.

Two comments. First, if someone had died in that ambulance, you can bet that the IDF would have been blamed, whether or not the consulate acknowledged its existence.

Second, Walles is lucky he's not a 14-year old Israeli girl. If he was, he would have been strip-searched and held incommunicado for several weeks.


At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't understand why they didn't just hold their papers (actually a diplomat ID card) up against the window."

The article says they did that.

No more speed reading for Carl!


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