Tel Aviv, Israel: US ambassador Daniel Shapiro told a conference attended by Israeli politicians and military officials that the Obama administration questions whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government really wants peace with the Palestinians.
Israel needs to halt settlement expansion, mount a "more credible" campaign to control settler violence and open more West Bank land to Palestinians to show its commitment to peace efforts, Mr Shapiro said at the conference organised by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
"Too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seems to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law, one for Israelis, and another for Palestinians," he said. "Hovering over all these questions is the larger one about Israel's political strategy vis-a-vis its conflict with the Palestinians."
The ambassador's criticism comes two months after Mr Netanyahu's latest trip to the White House, where he and President Barack Obama pledged to co-operate and put angry disputes over the nuclear deal with Iran behind them.
Mr Shapiro said US criticism doesn't single out Israel. He said Palestinians must stop incitement against Israel and he condemned the stabbing of two Israeli women at West Bank settlements – one of whom was killed Sunday – by Palestinian suspects.
Mr Netanyahu rejected Mr Shapiro's remarks as "unacceptable and incorrect", adding in a text message: "Israel enforces the law for Israelis and Palestinians." He blamed the Palestinian Authority for refusing to resume peace talks. Palestinian officials say Israel's continued expansion of settlements makes further talks with Mr Netanyahu pointless.
Earlier at the conference, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot, Israel's military chief of staff, said Iran's agreement to halt its nuclear program in return for relief from international economic sanctions presents "grave dangers, but also opportunities".
General Eisenkot called the deal a "strategic turning point," without describing specific opportunities. Army strategists expect Iran to observe the terms of the nuclear agreement for several years while increasing its support for Lebanese and Palestinian groups fighting Israel, he said.