Middle East Eye / August 28, 2023
Far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich points to American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as he rejects ‘racism’ criticism.
Israel’s far-right finance minister has accused the US of “hypocrisy” after the US condemned one of his colleagues for asserting Jewish supremacy in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In an interview in Israeli media, Bezalel Smotrich was asked about the controversy caused by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who last week said that his right to safe travel in the West Bank was “more important” than the rights of Palestinians, and that more needed to be done to ensure the security of Jewish settlers.
In response, a spokesperson for the US State Department said it “strongly condemn[s] Minister Ben-Gvir’s inflammatory comments on the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of the West Bank”.
Speaking to Army Radio on Monday, Smotrich hit back at the US and said there was “no more moral country than Israel”.
“There is no nation that has been fighting for its survival in the face of murderous terrorism for decades in a cleaner and more careful way than the Jewish people,” he said.
“I am not talking about the Americans and how they acted in Afghanistan and Iraq. They shouldn’t preach to us about human rights, neither to the IDF nor to us on a political level. This is unmitigated hypocrisy.”
Smotrich, who also took administrative control of large sections of the occupied West Bank from Israel’s military – in a move experts say amounts to “de jure annexation” – earlier this month froze funds for Palestinian towns and Palestinian education programs in East Jerusalem.
He is also holding up about $53m slated for educational preparatory programs for young Palestinians, claiming that “Islamic radical cells” had taken root in Israeli colleges and universities.
Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism political alliance and one of the most far-right ministers in Israel’s government, previously said that “there was no such thing as Palestinian people”.