The Daily Telegraph

Netanyahu denounces minister’s call to ‘erase’ Palestinia­n village

Mr Smotrich is ‘convinced he did not mean to incite ... when he said I must be thrown from the plane’

- By Our Foreign Staff

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, the Israeli prime minister, has criticised “inappropri­ate” remarks made by a minister in which he called for the “erasure” of a Palestinia­n village.

Mr Netanyahu made the statement after the US demanded that he condemn his cabinet colleague.

However, Mr Netanyahu implied that his ally Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, simply misspoke.

Mr Netanyahu thanked Mr Smotrich for later taking the comments back and “making clear that his choice of words” was “inappropri­ate”. It appeared to be his first public response to Mr Smotrich’s remarks since they were made on Wednesday.

Mr Smotrich is the head of one of several ultranatio­nalist parties that help make up Mr Netanyahu’s government – Israel’s most Right-wing ever.

Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank last week rampaged through the Palestinia­n town of Hawara, where earlier in the day two Israeli brothers were shot dead. Later in the week, Mr Smotrich said the town should be erased.

He later backtracke­d, saying he didn’t mean for the Hawara to be erased but for Israel to operate surgically within it against Palestinia­n militants.

The US described the remarks as repugnant and urged Mr Netanyahu to “publicly reject and disavow them”.

The United Nations, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also condemned the remarks.

Mr Netanyahu went on to say that even foreign diplomats make mistakes, an apparent reference to a report by Israeli Channel 12 that Tom Nides, the US ambassador to Israel, made disparagin­g remarks about Mr Smotrich ahead of his Washington visit this week.

According to Channel 12, Mr Nides said he “would throw him off the plane” if he could, referring to Mr Smotrich. The US Embassy denied the ambassador had made the remarks.

Mr Smotrich, in a tweet on Saturday, said he was “convinced that he didn’t mean to incite to kill me when he said I must be thrown from the plane just as I didn’t mean to harm innocents when I said Hawara must be erased”.

Mr Netanyahu said “it is important for all of us to work to tone down the rhetoric” amid a wave of violence between Israel and the Palestinia­ns.

“That includes speaking out forcefully against inappropri­ate statements and even correcting our own statements when we misspeak or when our words are taken out of context,” he posted on Twitter.

Mr Netanyahu then slammed the Palestinia­n Authority for not condemning Palestinia­n attacks against Israelis, and the internatio­nal community for not demanding condemnati­ons from the Palestinia­ns.

Israel has long claimed the internatio­nal community has a double standard in its expectatio­ns from Israel and the Palestinia­ns.

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