Calling for a forceful government response to a recent terror attack, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Wednesday that the Palestinian town of Huwara should be “wiped out.”
Smotrich – who also serves in the Defense Ministry in matters relating to Israeli settlers – clarified that private citizens should not take action themselves, and spoke against the recent attacks by Israeli settlers on the Palestinian town.
His comments were made during a conference hosted by TheMarker, a business newspaper published by Israel's Haaretz daily.
The remarks came in the aftermath of two violent events. On Sunday, a Palestinian terrorist from Huwara killed two Israelis; in response, a number of Israeli settlers rioted in Huwara, setting various cars and buildings on fire, and fighting with residents.
Responding to the terrorist attack, Smotrich said that 'calm' will only be achieved "when the IDF hits the cities of terror and its perpetrators mercilessly, with tanks and helicopters.”
In a tweet addressed to “fellow settlers” after the riot in Huwara, Smotrich condemned the violence and property destruction: “We must not take the law into our hands and create a dangerous anarchy that could get out of control and cost human lives.”
Smotrich’s extreme rhetoric sparked outrage from many of his political opponents in Israel, as well as from U.S. government officials.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said the comments “amount to incitement to violence,” despite Smotrich’s statements against settlers’ violent actions.
Addressing the controversy surrounding his remarks, Smotrich tweeted the following:
“For the avoidance of doubt, in my words I did not mean to wipe out the village of Huwara, but only to act in a targeted manner against the terrorists and supporters of terrorism within it and to exact a heavy price from them in order to restore security to the residents of the area.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.