Benny Gantz in February 2020 (Photo/JTA-Gili Yaari-Flash90)
Benny Gantz in February 2020 (Photo/JTA-Gili Yaari-Flash90)

Israeli defense minister: ‘We seek the truth’ on killing of Palestinian-American journalist

Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, said on Sunday that he discussed the fatal shooting of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering a raid in the occupied West Bank for Al-Jazeera, in his meetings with senior officials of the U.S. administration last week.

But during a briefing with reporters in New York, Gantz said that he complained to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that the Palestinian Authority has refused to cooperate in a joint inquiry or turn over the bullet from Abu Akleh’s body.

Israel has “nothing to lose” from a forensic examination that would determine whether the fatal shot came from an Israeli soldier or from Palestinian rioters during an IDF operation in Jenin’s refugee camp. “We are seeking to know the truth – from a moral and strategic perspective.”

Last week, a group of 57 members of Congress, making up 25% of the House Democratic caucus, signed a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and FBI Director Christopher Wray urging an independent investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh. “Given the tenuous situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we request the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launch an investigation into Ms. Abu Akleh’s death,” the members wrote.

Haaretz reported that the Israeli military has decided not to conduct a criminal investigation into the shooting.

Gantz said the main focus of the visit to Washington was about Iran. He said the war in Ukraine has taught the world a lesson of what happens when a nuclear-powered nation decides to launch a war on another country.

“I don’t know if there will be an agreement or not,” Gantz added. “But if there will be one, I hope they’ll close the loopholes that are in the nuclear agreement itself.”

The defense minister was in New York, after visiting Miami, Florida, to speak at an event held at the Park East Synagogue in support of bereaved families of fallen Israeli soldiers living in the U.S. In his remarks, Gantz said that both Lloyd and Sullivan reinforced his belief “that Israel’s closest strategic partner and friend is the indeed the United States and we must always work together to protect and maintain this bond.”

He also said that Israel is “committed to fighting” the wave of antisemitism across the U.S. “so that no Jew has to fear for their safety or hide their identity — in the streets of Brooklyn or in the hallways of NYU.”

Earlier in the day, Gantz marched in the annual Celebrate Israel parade down Fifth Avenue.

Jacob Kornbluh

Jacob Kornbluh is the Forward’s senior political reporter. Follow him on Twitter @jacobkornbluh or email [email protected].

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