Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for the state of Israel to wipe the West Bank town of Huwara off the map, three days after Israeli settlers burned dozens of homes and cars there.
“I think that Huwara needs to be wiped out, but the State of Israel needs to do it, most certainly not private citizens,” he said on Wednesday during a public interview at a conference by business news organization TheMarker.
These comments sparked controversy among nations allied with Israel, specifically the United States and some nations involved in the Abraham Accords agreement. Israel's neighbor, Jordan, expressed outrage at Smotrich's comments, while the United Arab Emirates simply responded by calling the finance minister's words "racist."
The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned his calls to "erase Huwara," saying that his comments are a clear breach of human rights and international law.
"The calls for violence portend serious consequences and are a violation of international humanitarian law. Stopping the unilateral measures that harm the two-state solution and stopping the provocative actions that cause tension and violence are necessary to prevent the deterioration and reduce the escalation," the ministry said in a statement.
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."
Smotrich responds to the media
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.”
In a more extended statement, he accused the media of twisting his words and publicizing only a small section of the interview.
Smotrich said he had told TheMarker that Huwara was “a hostile village” that was at the forefront of terror activity. Palestinians from the town are continually engaged in attacks against Jews, whether by throwing stones or shooting at them, he charged.
Still, Smotrich underscored, Israeli citizens “should not take the law into their own hands.”
He also noted that he supported swift, decisive responses by the IDF to terror attacks.
“For each stone that is thrown, a [Palestinian] shop should be closed. For every Molotov cocktail, there should be arrests and deportations,” he said.
“When a terror cell is uncovered, a painful price should be exacted, until the terrorists and their supporters realize that our children’s blood should not be abandoned [spilled] and that terrorism does not pay. This is the way to deal with terrorism and prevent additional victims,” he added.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.