Far-right Israeli minister Smotrich claims his 'wipe out Hawara' comment was not a military order
Far-right Israeli minister Bezalel Smotrich claimed on Wednesday that his recent entreat to have Hawara "wiped out" was not a military order to eradicate the Palestinian town.
The finance minister, who also holds a position in the defence ministry for the occupied West Bank, has apologised about the comment before but now rejected claims he wanted civilians killed when calling for Hawara's destruction.
He had offered a partial retraction of the statement this week but claimed nobody could seriously view this as a call to wipe out the town.
This view changed when a friend from the military who "he 100 percent trusts" said the Hawara remark pushed air force pilots to join a mass protest against the Israeli government's plan to overhaul the judiciary by refusing to report for reserve duty.
After some "soul searching" Smotrich appeared to admit on Wednesday that the post could be interpreted as an order for soldiers to eradicate the whole of Hawara, which was subject to a brutal pogrom by extremist Israeli settlers last month.
He then admitted that they were interpreted this way by "good, smart, serious and dedicated people who devote the best years of their lives to Israel’s security [ie military officers]".
"When I hear that such serious people attribute such terrible intentions to me, I can no longer console myself by blaming others. I am forced to engage in some soul-searching," he wrote.
It follows Smotrich's 'like' of a post by extremist settlement leader Davidi Ben Zion that called for "the wipe out" of "the village of Hawara today" after the killing of two Israeli settlers by a suspected Palestinian militant on 26 February.
What followed that evening was a crazed rampage by settlers through the streets of Hawara, who torched homes and vehicles with one Palestinian killed in a nearby town.
When questioned on why he had liked this post, Smotrich responded: "Because I think the village of Hawara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it."
He also said the Israeli military should engage in a "disproportionate response" to the "hostile village", leading to further criticism.
Later he claimed that only someone "unhinged" would see this as a call to kill men, women, and children.
The Hawara comments saw a rare public rebuke of an Israeli minister by Washington and Smotrich is yet to receive approval for a visa to the US, ahead of a donors meeting on Sunday which is being boycotted by US officials and leading Jewish groups.