Washington, D.C. – The United States has criticized a top Israeli minister for saying a Palestinian village attacked by settlers should be “wiped out”, calling his comments “abhorrent”.
US Secretary of State spokesman Ned Price also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “publicly and clearly” reject remarks his Treasury Secretary Bezalel Smotrich made against the West Bank village of Huwara .
“These comments were irresponsible. They were repulsive. They were disgusting,” Price told reporters on Wednesday. “And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence.”
Smotrich, a far-right Israeli politician who also oversees civilian administration in the occupied West Bank, made his remarks days after Israeli settlers stormed Huwara and burned dozens of cars and houses.
“I think Huwara village should be wiped out. I think the state of Israel should do it,” Smotrich told Israeli media on Wednesday.
A Palestinian died during the settlers’ attack on Huwara, near the town of Nablus, which came amid a wave of 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 in Jericho, deep in the West Bank, earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Price renewed Washington’s call for “equal accountability for extremist actions, regardless of the background of perpetrators or victims.”
But according to a report by the Times of Israel newspaper, Israeli authorities had arrested only eight suspects — out of hundreds who took part in the Huwara disaster — and released all of them on Tuesday.
Washington has become increasingly critical of Netanyahu’s far-right administration’s policies, including the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Palestinian rights advocates, however, have called for concrete action from US President Joe Biden’s administration to prevent further Israeli violations.
Israel, accused of imposing a system of apartheid by leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, receives at least $3.8 billion annually in US aid.
On Thursday, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an advocacy group, urged the State Department to impose a US visa ban on Smotrich.
“The Biden administration should not allow senior government officials who incite atrocities against Palestinian civilians to spread their violent and hateful rhetoric in the United States,” DAWN executive director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement.
“The ‘exceptional’ nature of the US-Israel relationship 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 establish “clear red lines and tangible consequences” for Israeli government policy.
Only then can the Biden administration truly hope to halt the escalation of violence and terror, advance US interests, defend the rights and lives of Israel and Palestinians, and 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, dismissing calls to impose conditions on US aid to the country.