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Israeli finance minister formally apologizes to IDF for ‘wipe out Huwara’ comment

Smotrich: The thought of indiscriminately killing innocent people ‘never crossed my heart for a fraction of a second’

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotirch holds a press conference in Jerusalem, Feb. 28, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich apologized to the Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday for his statement earlier this month about the Palestinian town of Huwara needing to be “wiped out.” 

In his comments, Smotrich – who also serves as a minister in the Defense Ministry – said, “I think that Huwara needs to be wiped out, but the State of Israel needs to do it, most certainly not private citizens.”

Smotrich’s comment came after a terrorist shot and murdered two Israeli brothers in February as they drove through the town Huwara on Highway 60. Following the incident, an Israeli protest against the murders devolved when young settlers set fire to two junkyards, numerous cars, homes and shopfronts. 

Smotrich’s incendiary comment came next, in reference to the rioters’ actions in the town that many in Israel also condemned. He had couched his “wipe out” comment in the context of stating that the town is a hotbed for terrorism. 

Smotrich retracted his comments about Huwara on March 5. In his online apology to the IDF, he wrote that his friend in the Israeli Air Force told him that he was concerned and that many in the IAF had interpreted his statement as a call for the Air Force to “erase” Huwara from the air. 

Such a statement, Smotrich wrote, “combined with what they understand as granting unlimited power to the elected government as a result of the reform in the judicial system, has put them into real anxiety.”

“According to this friend of mine, and I trust him 100%, it’s not some cynical campaign excuse of the pilots in the context of opposition to reform, but a deep and real fear that led them to do what they did,” Smotrich wrote.

In his apology, Smotrich wrote that the thought of indiscriminately killing innocent people “never crossed my heart for a fraction of a second.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wanted to thank Smotrich “for making clear that his choice of words regarding the vigilante attacks on [Huwara] following the murder of the Yaniv brothers were inappropriate and that he is strongly opposed to intentionally harming innocent civilians.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also took to social media to comment on the apology. 

“I congratulate minister Bezalel Smotrich for his important words and for showing responsibility,” Gallant wrote. 

Smotrich had faced criticism both within Israel and internationally for his remarks, with U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price calling his statement “irresponsible” and “disgusting.”

Smotrich’s words also put him at risk of being denied a visa to travel to the United States. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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