Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday clarified remarks by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir earlier in the week regarding Israeli security policy in Judea and Samaria.
Speaking on Israel’s Channel 12 television on Wednesday, Ben-Gvir said, “My right, and my wife’s and my children’s right, to get around on the roads in Judea and Samaria is more important than the right to movement for Arabs. The right to life comes before freedom of movement.”
The remarks drew widespread condemnation, with a U.S. State Department spokesperson calling them “inflammatory” and “racist.”
However, according to the statement from Netanyahu’s office on Friday, Ben-Gvir’s intended message was that the right to life takes precedence over freedom of movement.
“Israel allows maximum freedom of movement in Judea and Samaria for both Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, Palestinian terrorists take advantage of this freedom of movement to murder Israeli women, children and families” the statement read.
“Thirty-four civilians have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2023, many of them while driving home,” it continued, including most recently Batsheva Nigri, who was killed on Route 60 in Judea on Aug. 21 in front of her 12-year-old daughter.
“In order to prevent these heinous murders, Israel’s security forces have implemented special security measures in these areas. This is what Minister Ben-Gvir meant when he said ‘the right to life precedes freedom of movement,’ the statement continued.
“Israel will continue its policy of maintaining security while affording freedom of movement for both Israelis and Palestinians,” it concluded.
For his part, Ben-Gvir on Thursday defended his remarks, calling the uproar “fake news” spread by the “Israeli radical left” that “selectively cut a section out of my statement, purposefully misquoted even that, and removed the context in order to slander me as if I had made a racist declaration that Jews deserve more civil rights than Arabs.”
Ben-Gvir also participated in an online feud with U.S. model and vocal Israel critic Bella Hadid, whose father comes from a Palestinian Muslim family. She posted to her nearly 60 million followers on Instagram on Thursday that “in no place, no time, especially in 2023 should one life be more valuable than another’s. Especially simply because of their ethnicity, culture, or pure hatred.”
Ben-Gvir responded on X, formerly Twitter, accusing Hadid of attempting to make him look “racist and dark” by using only a segment of the interview.
“I invite you to Kiryat Arba (a Jewish community on the outskirts of Hebron in southern Samaria), to see how we live here, how every day Jews who have done nothing wrong to anyone in their lives are murdered here, what threats my wife and children receive every day from terrorists who live here next to me.
“So yes, the right of me and my fellow Jews to travel and return home safely on the roads of Judea and Samaria outweighs the right of terrorists who throw stones at us and kill us. I won’t apologize and will not retract my words. I’ll say them another 1,000 times, too.”
So far in 2023, Palestinian terrorists have killed 35 people (34 Israelis and an Italian tourist) in Israel and committed almost 200 shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria.