Israeli minister's call to 'erase' Palestinian village an incitement to violence, US says

State Department says comments are 'disgusting' and 'irresponsible'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, speaks to Justice Minister Yariv Levin in the Israeli parliament last month. AP
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Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's call for a Palestinian village to be “erased” amounted to incitement to violence and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must publicly disavow it, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

An ultranationalist in Mr Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, Mr Smotrich made the comments at a conference on Wednesday amid a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks and Israeli settler violence in the occupied West Bank.

Asked about a weekend settler rampage through the village of Hawara, which an Israeli general on Tuesday described as a “pogrom”, Mr Smotrich said “I think that Hawara needs to be erased”.

“I think that the state of Israel needs to do it, but God forbid not individual people.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Mr Smotrich's comments “were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting”.

Mr Price said “and just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence”.

Israel's police have arrested 10 people for suspected involvement in the Hawara attack in which one Palestinian was killed.

The rampage followed a Palestinian gun attack that killed two Israelis.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and arrested six others suspected of involvement in the fatal shooting of an Israeli-American in the West Bank on Monday.

After making the Hawara comments, Mr Smotrich issued a statement saying the media had misinterpreted them, without retracting his call for the village to be erased.

“I spoke about how Hawara is a hostile village that has become a terrorist outpost” where attacks against Jews are launched daily, Mr Smotrich said, adding it was forbidden to take the law into one's own hands.

“I support a disproportionate response by the (Israeli military) and the security forces to every act of terrorism,” including the “deportation of the families of the terrorists,” Mr Smotrich said.

Updated: March 02, 2023, 5:36 AM