By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON— A bipartisan slate of 25 Congress members, including a number who are close to the pro-Israel community, called on the Biden administration to pressure the Palestinian Authority to release the bullet that killed a Palestinian reporter for an independent investigation.
“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to the forensic evidence in [Shireen] Abu Akleh’s death for an independent investigation so that all parties can reach a definitive conclusion about the events leading to her death, and hold all parties accountable,” said the letter sent Friday and spearheaded by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Jewish New Jersey Democrat.
The signatories, 14 Democrats and 11 Republicans, include lawmakers known for their close ties to the center-right pro-Israel community, among them Democrats Gottheimer and Donald Norcross of New Jersey; Virginia Democrat Elaine Luria; and Democrat Juan Vargas and Republican Young Kim, both from California.
Israel wants to jointly investigate the May 11 killing of Abu Akleh, a venerated Al Jazeera journalist, with the Palestinian Authority, and have the United States acting as an observer. The Palestinian Authority rejects any Israeli role in the investigation and has called on the International Criminal Court to launch a case against Israel.
Abu Akleh was an American citizen. Israel contends that it has narrowed the likely source of the gunfire to two sources: Israeli soldiers or Palestinian militants. It says it needs to test the bullet against the Israelis’ rifle to render a more definitive conclusion.
Last month, 57 Democrats sent a letter to Blinken and to the FBI pressing for a U.S. investigation. The letter appeared to place more credence in versions of events that blamed Israeli soldiers for the shooting. Two major media outlets, CNN and the Associated Press, said Israeli soldiers were the likely culprits.
The Gottheimer letter said an investigation was “critical” to resolving an issue that impinged on press freedoms.
“Ms. Abu Akleh was one of eighteen journalists who have lost their lives this year in the course of their work,” it said. “A free press is vital to an accountable, democratic government. No journalist should face threats or violence for doing their job.”