Said Arikat, a reporter for the Jerusalem based Al-Quds daily brought up the incident, which occurred two weeks ago in Hebron.
Should Israel pay $100 in damages to the Palestinian girl whose bicycle was confiscated by Israeli Border Policemen? Such was a question asked by a reporter at a recent US State Department briefing.
The issue was raised right after a discussion on Iran’s execution of 20 Kurdish prisoners and details regarding the possible link between a $400 million cash payment to Iran and the release of four Americans held by Tehran.
In the aftermath of the discussion Said Arikat, a reporter for the Jerusalem based Al-Quds daily brought up the incident, which occurred two weeks ago in Hebron, and was caught on video by a volunteer from the Israeli non-governmental group B’Tselem.
In the video, the policeman can be seen stopping the girl as she played near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an area often off-limits to Palestinians.
The officer puts his foot on the bicycle, which has fallen to the ground. The girl, age 8, runs away crying. A policeman is later seen throwing the bicycle into the buses.
The border policeman involved in the incident has since been suspended from active duty.
On Thursday, Arikat posed the following question during the State Department’s daily briefing.
“Should Israel compensate this little girl for the bicycle?”
Its deputy spokesman Mark Toner responded, “I don’t know that that’s a question we necessarily should answer from the podium of the State Department.”
But then, Toner proceeded to offer an opinion.
“We understand the tensions that exist in Israel regarding security and security concerns,” Toner said.
He added, “it’s also legitimate to say that what’s portrayed in that video is concerning and raises emotions on the part of many people who see it, and that any security forces – and I’m talking about not just Israel’s, but any security forces around the world – have a difficult job.
“We understand that they have to balance a lot of factors in carrying out their duties, but they also need to be aware of how their actions portray what they’re doing and the reasons behind what they’re doing to the rest of the world,” Toner said.
Arikat persisted, as he brought up the United States’ military assistance to Israel.
“But you subsidize Israel to the tune of billions of dollars,” Arikat said.
“We do,” Toner responded.
“Should you deduct like $100 to pay for that bicycle?” Arikat asked.
Then he repeated the question in more detail.
“Should you deduct $100 from the $40 billion or so that you’re about to give Israel for the next 10 years, and say this is to replace the bicycle?”
Toner responded by speaking about the significance of American-Israeli ties.
“Our security relationship with Israel is important both to Israel’s national security interests as well as our own, as well as the region’s, and it’s vital that we maintain that close cooperation.
“And, frankly, that relationship, as I said yesterday, is ironclad. Israel is a strong democracy in the region and a strong proponent of democratic values in the region.
“We’re looking at this incident. I agree that, again, for those who watched the video, I can see where it raises emotions and raises concerns. And what we’ve always said – and that bears – that is true for Israel’s security forces or Israelis, as well as for Palestinians – is that all sides need to bear in mind and take – or make efforts not to escalate tensions and be aware that their actions could escalate tensions in what is already an overly tense situation,” Toner said.
Arikat persisted with his line of questioning.
“So you don’t – you will not urge Israel to compensate this little girl?
Toner responded, “I’m not aware of any efforts on that part.”
“I’m not even sure we could do that,” he added.