Israel: Officials fear Smotrich’s statements ‘could harm ties with Jordan and Egypt’

MEE Staff

Middle East Monitor  /  March 22, 2023

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Sunday that ‘there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people’.

Israeli security officials are reportedly concerned about potential damage to ties with Egypt and Jordan following controversial statements made by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

The leader of the Religious Zionism political alliance said on Sunday that “there were no such thing as Palestinian people” in a speech he gave in Paris, showing a map of Jordan, mandatory Palestine, areas of SyriaLebanon and Saudi Arabia as part of Israel.

He also said that the Palestinian town of Huwwara, in the occupied West Bank, should be “wiped out” following the killing of two Israeli settlers in February.

According to Kan broadcasting corporation, Jordan had reprimanded its ambassador in Tel Aviv this week, while Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi held talks with Ayman al-Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, in an attempt to calm the situation. 

Kan reported that Smotrich’s undiplomatic remarks could affect security coordination between Israel, Jordan and Egypt ahead of the volatile days of Ramadan. 

Kan’s report added that Smotrich’s words could harm ties with Jordan, which is of great importance to Israel, and shatter security understandings forged in meetings held in Aqaba and Sharm al-Sheikh this month.

Middle East Eye could not independently verify the report. 

Irgun’s map

Smotrich declared on Sunday at a memorial service for a late Likud activist in Paris that “There’s no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people.”

He said that the Palestinian people were “an invention” cooked up in the 20th century to fight Zionism and that it was people like him and his grandparents who were the “real Palestinians”. 

Speaking at a podium adorned with a map based on the crest of the Zionist Irgun militia, which shows Israel straddling the West Bank and Jordan, Smotrich said that the French and US governments needed to hear “this truth” about the Palestinians.  

“Do you know who are the Palestinians?” the head of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party said. “I’m Palestinian.”

Smotrich referred to his grandmother, who was born in the northern Israeli town of Metula over a century ago, and his grandfather, who was a 13th-generation Jerusalemite.

Smotrich has previously said that his surname is derived from the Ukrainian town of Smotrych, where he has said his ancestors lived.

Following Smotrich’s statement in Paris, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said: “Israel is committed to the peace agreement with Jordan, in 1994. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom.”


Jordan parliament votes to recommend expelling Israeli ambassador

Al-Jazeera  /  March 22, 2023

The recommendation is in protest against the actions of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

The parliament of Jordan has voted to recommend the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Amman from the country in protest against the behaviour of a minister in Israel’s far-right government, who stirred controversy earlier this week after he denied the existence of the Palestinian people.

During the legislative session, House of Representatives Speaker Ahmed al-Safadi called on the government to take action in response to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Smotrich on Sunday said: “There are no Palestinians, because there isn’t a Palestinian people,” while standing at a podium adorned with a map that showed a fictional expanded Israel including all of the occupied Palestinian territory and Jordan.

The incident led to an angry backlash and the Israeli ambassador in Amman was summoned by the Jordanian foreign ministry to register its objections. The governments of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also issued statements condemning Smotrich’s words and actions.

On Monday, Jordanian officials said Israel’s national security adviser had told them that Israel respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbour.

The Jordanian parliament said that it was united in rejecting Smotrich’s comments, calling his actions a reflection of “Israeli arrogance”.

In his response to the parliamentarians, Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Tawfiq Krishan said that the fall-out from the incident had united Jordanians.

“The map of Jordan is drawn only by Jordanians,” Krishan said.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, having fought against each other in 1948 and 1967.

Many Jordanians are Palestinian in origin, the descendants of Palestinians forced from their homes by Israel.