Jul 14, 2021 - World

Israeli demolition in West Bank sparked tensions with top Democrat

Rep. Gregory Meeks. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Gett

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) last week called Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to protest over the demolition of a house in the West Bank owned by a Palestinian American accused of carrying out a terror attack, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The demolition — which sparked the Biden administration's first criticism of the new Israeli government on the Palestinian issue — took place while Meeks was leading a bipartisan delegation to Israel.

Behind the scenes: Last Thursday, Meeks called Lapid, whom he'd met a day earlier, and complained that the demolition was carried out during a visit intended to signal bipartisan support for the relationship with Israel, according to the Israeli officials.

  • The timing caught Meeks and his delegation off guard and exposed them to criticism from progressive Democrats.
  • Israeli Foreign Ministry officials feared a repeat of the March 2010 incident in which an announcement on settlement-building in East Jerusalem was released while then-Vice President Biden was visiting the country.
  • Lapid told Meeks the demolition had been approved by the Supreme Court and was meant to deter further terror attacks, but it was a "tough" conversation, one Israeli official says.

Between the lines: “If we did it after the delegation left, this incident could have been averted," the official added, noting that Lapid didn't like the timing either and understood why Meeks was upset.

What’s next: After the incident, Lapid spoke with Bennett and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz to set up a coordination mechanism that will prevent such incidents from happening again, per an Israeli official.

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