US: Israeli Official's Words 'Repugnant' and 'Disgusting'

Finance chief Bezalel Smotrich said Palestinian town of Hawara should be 'erased'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2023 11:30 AM CST
Israeli Official's Suggestion for Palestinian Town: 'Erase' It
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, right, arrive to attend a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Feb. 23.   (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)

A far-right government official in Israel has drawn the condemnation of the US for his inflammatory comments about a Palestinian town now at the center of tensions. "I think the village of Hawara needs to be erased," said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during an on-stage interview Wednesday. He added, per CNN, "I think the state of Israel needs to do this, and not—God forbid—private citizens." Smotrich spoke after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli brothers in the West Bank town over the weekend. In response to the shooting, Israeli ultranationalists rampaged through Hawara, setting businesses, homes, and cars on fire, and killing a Palestinian man.

A US State Department spokesman condemned Smotrich's view later Wednesday. "I want to be very clear about this," said Ned Price. "These comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting." Price also called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn the comments. He hasn't done so, though Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog, addressed them: "Notwithstanding the fact that Israel has been subjected to a recent wave of horrific terror attacks against its civilians, it is absolutely not Israeli policy and it's against our values to respond by wiping out civilian villages."

Included in the backlash to Smotrich's comments: Two liberal American Jewish groups have called on the US to revoke Smotrich's visa, notes the Times of Israel. Smotrich himself has accused the media of misinterpreting his comments, though Reuters notes that his subsequent statement didn't renounce the call for the town to be erased. "I spoke about how Hawara is a hostile village that has become a terrorist outpost," he said, asserting that attacks against Jewish people are regularly launched from there. "I support a disproportionate response by the [Israeli military] and the security forces to every act of terrorism," he said. (More Israel and Palestinians stories.)

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