One has to compare Palestinians in the West Bank to prisoners to understand how Israel is not an apartheid state for denying them freedom of movement as a way to preserve Jewish life, Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu (Otzma Yehudit) said Sunday.
“What is a prison? In a prison I take a human being [and] deny him his civil rights so that the rest of society will be run in a better way,” he told Hebrew-language news site Ynet in an interview.
“The moment a person threatens my right to life, I reduce his rights slightly and allow the normative person to operate,” Eliyahu said.
Is this apartheid? Israeli minister says no, it's a prison
Journalist Attila Somfalvi pushed him on the point, noting that for some this was “apartheid.”
Eliyahu said, “What apartheid? We are talking about prison.”
Somfalvi asked, “What prison? You are referencing the territories. Are you saying Judea and Samaria is a prison?
Eliyahu said, “When you go to a prison, and there is a prisoner there, you reduce his rights. Is that apartheid?”
Eliyahu spoke out after the head of his party, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was criticized for demanding additional restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank after three Israelis were killed in two terrorist attacks last week.
“My right and that of my wife and my children to travel on the roads in Judea and Samaria is more important than the freedom of movement for Arabs,” Ben-Gvir told Channel 12 last week.
The European Union and the US State Department condemned his remarks. The State Department said they were “racist rhetoric.” Other critics said it was proof that Israel was in fact an apartheid state.
Ben-Gvir’s comments were taken out of context, Eliyahu told Ynet.
“Why don’t we open our borders so that anyone who wants to come here from Egypt and Lebanon can enter?” he asked. “When there is a hostile population that carries out thousands of terrorist attacks and does not block them, then I say with great regret, I will slightly reduce the rights of those people who harm us so that normal people can continue to drive on the roads.”
“This is a well-known democratic logic,” Eliyahu said. “Once the Arabs lay down their weapons, then there will be peace here, and they will be able to drive freely.”
In response, MK Ahmad Tibi (Hadash-Ta’al) wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “Shame, it continues: Another racist but frank minister from Ben-Gvir’s party: Minister Amichai Eliyahu compares the occupied West Bank to a prison but explains that prisons are not apartheid.”
Prior to the government meeting on Sunday, Ben-Gvir doubled down on his statements and said the Left was helping the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement slander Israel.
“It turns out that the extreme Left in Israel has no boundaries, and to harm Itamar Ben-Gvir, they are ready to discredit Israel around the world, twist things, [and] give fuel to BDS,” he said. “I repeat, and I will also fight and fight for what I say, and it is very simple: The right to life prevails over the right to freedom of movement, I said it, and I continue to say it.”