Israel's Smotrich draws int'l condemnation for urging for Palestinian town to be 'erased'
The world has responded in horror to comments by Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, who earlier this week called for the 'erasure' of the Palestinian town of Huwara.
Smotrich, a right-wing extremist who has repeatedly incited violence against the Palestinians, made the comments at a conference on Wednesday amid a series of violence by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Asked about the settler rampage through the Palestinian village of Huwara - which an Israeli general on Tuesday described as a "pogrom" - Smotrich said: "I think that Huwara needs to be erased".
"I think that the state of Israel needs to do it, but God forbid not individual people," he added.
Israel’s staunch ally the United States was one of the first to respond, with State Department spokesperson Ned Price telling reporters that Smotrich’s comments were "irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting."
"And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence," he added.
US officials and pro-Israel American lobby group AIPAC have also decided not to meet Smotrich during a visit Washington next week.
Saudi Arabia condemned Smotrich’s "racist" statements. The kingdom's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday said in a statement: "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strong condemnation of the extremist statements made by an Israeli occupation official by demanding an (erase) of the Palestinian village of Huwara."
“The Ministry affirms the Kingdom’s complete rejection of these racist and irresponsible statements, which reflect the amount of violence and extremist practised by the occupying Israeli entity towards the brotherly Palestinian people,” the statement said.
Riyadh's condemnation is especially significant, given recent warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt condemned Smotrich’s comments on Friday, calling them "unacceptable, dangerous incitement to violence that go against all laws, norms and moral values."
Qatar described his comments as "hateful and provocative" that constitute "a serious incitement to a war crime."
Jordan's foreign ministry condemned the "inflammatory" remarks, and a foreign ministry spokesperson said Smotrich's statements "portend serious consequences and represent a violation of international humanitarian law."
France also condemned the remarks, and a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said: "We were appalled by the Israeli minister's statements regarding the Palestinian village of Huwara. These statements are unacceptable and irresponsible."
Smotrich is part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government, whose ministers and parliamentarians have repeatedly issued calls for violence against Palestinians.
At least 60 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli violence in the occupied West Bank this year, according to official figures.
Last year was the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem since 2005, with around 150 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.