The US State Department condemns the Israeli minister’s call for Huwara to be “wiped out”, calling it a “disgusting” incitement.
Washington DC – The United States has criticized a top Israeli minister for saying a Palestinian village attacked by settlers must be “wiped out”, calling his comments “abhorrent”.
A spokesman for US Secretary of State Ned Price also called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “publicly and clearly” reject the statements made by his Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich against the West Bank village of Huwara.
“These comments were irresponsible. They were disgusting. They were disgusting, Price told reporters Wednesday. “And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these inflammatory statements that also constitute incitement to violence.”
Smotrich, a far-right Israeli politician who also oversees civil administration in the occupied West Bank, spoke out days after Israeli settlers stormed Huwara, burning dozens of cars and homes.
“I think the village of Huwara must be wiped out. I think the state of Israel should do it, Smotrich told Israeli media on Wednesday.
One Palestinian died during the settler attack on Huwara, near the city of Nablus, which came amid an increase in violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians in an invasion of Nablus last week.
Two Israeli settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman on Sunday, and an Israeli-American motorist was also killed in a shooting attack in Jericho, deep in the West Bank, earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Price renewed Washington’s call for “an equal measure of accountability for extremist acts regardless of the background of the perpetrators or the victims.”
But according to a report by the Times of Israel newspaper, Israeli authorities had arrested only eight suspects – out of hundreds involved in the Huwara rampage – and released all of them by Tuesday.
Washington has been increasingly critical of the policies of Netanyahu’s far-right government, including the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
However, Palestinian rights activists have called for concrete action from the administration of US President Joe Biden to deter further Israeli abuses.
Israel, accused of implementing a system of apartheid by leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, receives at least $3.8 billion in US aid annually.
On Thursday, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an advocacy group, called on the State Department to impose a US visa ban on Smotrich.
“The Biden administration should not allow senior government officials who encourage atrocities against Palestinian civilians to spread their violent and hateful rhetoric in the United States,” Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s executive director, said in a statement.
“The ‘exceptional’ nature of US-Israel relations should have its limits, and banning Smotrich would send an important signal that the US will not tolerate such a dangerous, reckless incitement to violence.”
Earlier this week, J Street, a Jewish-American group that describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, called on Biden to set “clear red lines and concrete consequences” for the Israeli government’s policies.
“Only then can the Biden administration truly hope to stop the escalation of violence and terror, advance American interests, defend Israeli and Palestinian rights and lives, and help secure Israel’s future as a democracy,” J Street said in a statement Monday.
Biden, a self-proclaimed Zionist, has repeatedly reaffirmed his “ironclad” commitment to Israel, rejecting calls to impose conditions on US aid to the country.