update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Smotrich: US has no right to preach to Israel about human rights

The finance minister cited the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in calling out what he called a hypocritical stance.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in Jerusalem, May 30, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in Jerusalem, May 30, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made pointed comments on Monday directed at the Biden administration for its criticism of the Israeli government’s policies.

“No country is as ethical as Israel, and no military is as ethical as the IDF. Anyone in the world who criticizes us is a hypocrite,” the Religious Zionism Party head said during an interview with IDF Radio.

“No nation has been fighting an existential war against terrorism for decades more cleanly and carefully than the Jewish nation,” the minister continued.

“I’m not even talking about the Americans and how they acted in Afghanistan and Iraq. They can’t preach to us about human rights, not to the IDF, and not to us on a government level. That is top-level hypocrisy.”

The U.S.-led coalition fought in Iraq from 2003 until 2011 while the armed conflict in Afghanistan lasted from 2001 until 2021 as the last American military aircraft departed the country on Aug. 30.

Smotrich spoke in reference to U.S. criticism of a recent statement made by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir that his family’s right to life trumps the freedom of movement of Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

 “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,” Ben-Gvir said last week.

The remarks drew widespread condemnation, with a U.S. State Department spokesperson calling them “inflammatory” and “racist.”

However, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, Ben-Gvir’s intended message was that the right to life takes precedence over freedom of movement and came in the context of a series of deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by Palestinians against Israeli civilians.

Smotrich’s comments on Monday drew a rebuke from Alon Liel, a former director general of the Foreign Ministry.

“Such babbling—half suicide from a diplomatic point of view. It will force Biden to worsen the relationship with the Netanyahu government,” IDF Radio quoted Liel as saying.

Liel supports the boycott of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and supported Alice Walker’s refusal to have her book The Color Purple translated into Hebrew and other cultural boycotts of Israel.

During the interview, Smotrich reacted favorably to a potential normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia but stressed that Israel would not agree to make any “gestures” toward the Palestinians as part of a deal.

The Biden administration told the Israeli government last week that it would have to make considerable concessions to the Palestinians if a U.S.-brokered deal with Saudi Arabia is to succeed.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, who visited Washington on Aug. 17, that Israel’s government is “misreading the situation” if it presumes it won’t need to make concessions, two U.S. officials told Axios.

Saudi Arabia will need to show Muslims the world over that it succeeded in extracting promises from Israel regarding the Palestinians in return for a normalization deal with Riyadh, said Blinken.

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