The Israeli government “greatly appreciates” American support for the Jewish state’s war effort but will always put the interests of its citizens first, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich stressed this week as he welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken back to Israel.
“As far as our existence in our country is concerned, we will always act according to the Israeli interest,” Smotrich tweeted Tuesday.
“That is why we will continue to fight with all our might to destroy Hamas, we will not transfer a single shekel to the Palestinian Authority that will go to the families of the Nazis in Gaza,” said Smotrich, in an apparent reference to the P.A.’s Martyrs Fund that rewards terrorists.
Jerusalem will also “work to allow the opening of the gates of Gaza for the voluntary migration of refugees as the international community did for the refugees from Syria and Ukraine,” the finance minister vowed, amid reports the issue had been removed from the government agenda.
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also addressed Blinken on X this week, tweeting in English on Tuesday that “it’s not the time to speak softly with Hamas, it’s time to use that big stick.”
Last week, Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, rejected calls by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir for Gazans to be resettled and for Israel to re-establish its civilian presence within the Strip.
Miller’s statement was a rare example of an official U.S. statement that called out individual Israeli politicians for condemnation.
Blinken touched down in Tel Aviv on Monday as part of a regional diplomatic tour in an attempt by the Biden administration to prevent a wider conflict some three months after an estimated 3,000 Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, murdering some 1,200 persons, mostly civilians.
During his visit, Blinken pushed Israeli officials to move to a less intensive, more targeted stage of the war against Hamas. He also suggested that Palestinians displaced to the south of the Gaza Strip be allowed back to the northern part.
During a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday, Blinken expressed support for “tangible steps” towards the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
“The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States supports tangible steps towards the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with both living in peace and security,” according to a State Department readout.
Washington has insisted that Gaza must be handed over to the P.A. once Israel’s military operation there ends. However, Israel opposes the restoration of P.A. rule over the Strip because of Ramallah’s overt support for terrorism.