Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich isn’t expected to meet any senior administration officials during his visit to Washington later this month, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The Religious Zionist Party head will meet with Orthodox organizations and with representatives of the banking community.
JTA confirmed on Wednesday that Smotrich, who has a history of bigoted statements, will be addressing the Washington leadership meeting of the Development Corporation for Israel-State of Israel Bonds, which is taking place March 12-14.
Many progressive Jewish organizations had said months ago that Smotrich and members of the right-wing bloc wouldn’t be welcome in their communities in the US.
According to a spokesperson on behalf of Smotrich, he is expected to meet with “heads of banks” as well as with other senior figures in the American economy. The spokesperson said the schedule isn’t final yet since the minister and his staff were busy working on the annual budget.
There are no scheduled meetings with any US government officials yet, the spokesperson said on Thursday.
One organization that plans to meet with the finance minister is the Orthodox Union. Executive vice president Rabbi Moshe Hauer told the Post that his organization is “looking forward to welcoming Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich” to their offices “as part of his forthcoming visit to the United States.”
“Minister Smotrich will be coming to the States as the guest of Israel Bonds and will use the opportunity to build greater understanding of and familiarity with the American Jewish community and its institutions. We appreciate every opportunity to welcome and interact with Israeli elected officials as it is our responsibility to build mutual familiarity and understanding that will contribute to the deepening and strengthening of the relationship between the State of Israel and American Jewry.”
Smotrich said on Wednesday during a public interview at a conference by business news organization TheMarker that the Palestinian village of “Huwara needs to be wiped out, but the State of Israel needs to do it, most certainly not private citizens.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price sharply rebuked the finance minister’s words stating that “these comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant, they were disgusting.”
“Just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence. We call on Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and other senior officials to publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments,” he said.
The United Arab Emirates said it condemned Smotrich’s “racist” remarks and affirmed that it rejected all “practices and behaviors that contradict moral and human values and principles."
It “underscored the need to confront hate speech and violence and noted the importance of strengthening the values of tolerance and human coexistence in efforts to reduce escalation and instability in the region.”
The left-wing NGO Peace Now called for the attorney general to open a “criminal investigation” against Smotrich stating this his words “could encourage Jewish terrorists to commit another pogrom against innocent people.”
Americans for Peace Now circulated a petition demanding that the United States deny Smotrich entry.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the Biden administration does not comment on individual visa information. He reiterated that the US "rejects the comments from the minister and we appreciate the condemnations that we have heard from our Israeli partners."
The left-wing US Jewish group J Street called on US government officials not to "legitimize his extremism by meeting with him, either in the United States or elsewhere."
Smotrich issued a statement in which he tried to backtrack from his statement made at a recent conference, which has been widely circulated on social media.
“Just to erase any doubt, I did not mean that the town of Huwara should be wiped out,” he tweeted. He claimed that he had only meant “that one has to act in a targeted manner against the terrorists and supporters of terrorism and to exact a heavy price from them in order to restore security to area residents.”
Tovah Lazaroff and JTA contributed to this report.