Netanyahu tried to calm anger over the minister’s comments about the Palestinians

Netanyahu tried to calm anger over the minister’s comments about the Palestinians

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday sought to soften international outrage over a right-wing member of his cabinet’s call to “erase” a flashpoint Palestinian village, saying the comments were “inappropriate.”

But Netanyahu also pushed back against Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s condemnation, accusing foreign powers of undermining Palestinian violence in the Feb. 26 killing of two Israeli brothers in the village of Huwara that sparked rampages among settlers there.

Smotrich said last week that while he opposed the warning, he believed that “Huwara needs to be wiped out” by Israel.

The US State Department called the comments “irresponsible,” “repugnant” and “disgusting” and said Netanyahu should reject and deny them.

The UN human rights chief said Smotrich had made “unthinkable statements of incitement to violence”.

Israeli media speculated that Smotrich, who is visiting Washington next week, will be rejected by the US administration and complicate his relationship with the Netanyahu government, offering a retraction on Saturday but not an apology.

“I’m upset, I made a mistake,” Smotrich told Channel 12 TV.

Palestinians have called on the US administration not to accept Smotrich. Netanyahu said he — and not coalition partners like Smotrich — called the shots on Israeli diplomacy.

“It’s important for all of us to embellish, to work to lower the temperature,” Netanyahu tweeted on Sunday, thanking Smotrich “for clarifying that his choice of words … was inappropriate”.

“I am still waiting to hear the Palestinian Authority condemn the killing of the Yaniv brothers,” Netanyahu added. “And Israel is waiting for the international community to condemn the PA for those attacks. Not only that, it continues to turn a blind eye to the PA’s massive incitement.”

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted: “As we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn Treasury Secretary Smotrich’s provocative comments that incite violence. It is imperative that Palestinians and Israelis work together to restore peace.”

At least 62 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed since the beginning of 2023, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. According to Israel, 13 Israelis and a Ukrainian tourist were killed in Palestinian attacks during the same period.

The brothers killed in Huwara came from a nearby Jewish settlement, a community that Palestinians consider interlopers in the occupied West Bank land they want for a future state. Most world powers consider these settlements illegal. Israel opposes it.

Hours after a gunman who fled the scene opened fire on the brothers’ car, settlers rioted in Huwara. A Palestinian man was shot dead, dozens were injured and houses and cars were set on fire. Israel arrests 10 suspects in connection with riots

Smotrich is scheduled to appear at a March 12 meeting of Israel Bonds, whose website says the event will also feature “high-level US government speakers.” The speaker is not named.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

#Netanyahu #calm #anger #ministers #comments #Palestinians

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