US slams Israeli minister's call to 'erase' Palestinian village as 'repugnant and disgusting'
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 extremist in Netanyahu's far-right coalition, 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 Palestinian village of Huwara, which an Israeli general on Tuesday described as a "pogrom," Smotrich said: "I think that Huwara needs to be erased".
Smotrich added: "I think that the state of Israel needs to do it, but God forbid not individual people."
"I liked a tweet that called to erase the village of Huwara because I think the village of Huwara needs to be erased. The state of Israel is the one that needs to erase it."— Breaking the Silence (@BtSIsrael) March 1, 2023
Bezalel Smotrich, Finance Minister, MK Religious Zionism party pic.twitter.com/cAiWX2yHM0
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that Smotrich's comments "were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting."
Price continued: "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 Huwara attack in which one Palestinian was killed. The rampage followed a Palestinian gun attack that killed two Israelis.
A few days before, the Israeli army stormed the city of Nablus and committed a massacre, killing 11 Palestinians and injuring scores of others.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and arrested six others suspected of involvement in the fatal shooting of an Israeli American in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
After making the Huwara comments, Smotrich issued a statement saying the media had misinterpreted them, without retracting his call for the village to be erased.
"I spoke about how Huwara is a hostile village that has become a terrorist outpost" where attacks against Jews are launched daily, 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," Smotrich added.