Friday 7 June 2024

Israeli official threatens to turn West Bank into RUINS just like the Gaza Strip

 An Israeli official has threatened to turn the West Bank into ruins in the same manner as the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich issued this threat in a video posted on May 30. The video filmed outdoors showed the official addressing his "neighbors beyond the fence." In particular, Smotrich's message was aimed at Palestinians living in the West Bank cities of Tulkarem, Nur al-Shams, Shuweika and Qalqilya.

"We will turn you into ruins like in the Gaza Strip if the terror you are inflicting on the settlements continues," he said. "Terrorism against the citizens of Israel must stop."

The finance minister warned of an unsafe future should the international community recognize the right of Palestinian statehood. He also warned that the Oct. 7 Operation Al-Aqsa Flood attack, launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, can happen in the West Bank as well.

"This will not come to be and will not happen. We will strike at the terror. We will continue to rule [the West Bank] because this is the security buffer for the settlements here in the seam zone and for the major cities located west of here within the state of Israel."

Smotrich's remarks sought to address alleged "violence" by Palestinians in the West Bank against illegal Israeli settlers. The finance minister and leader of the Mafdal-Religious Zionism party is also an illegal settler himself, as he lives in the Israeli settlement of Kedumim. Aside from his portfolio in the Israeli Ministry of Finance, Smotrich also holds a position in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that gives him the power to expand settlements in the West Bank – making him the occupation governor of the territory. 

According to the Huffington Post, the video message also comes amid escalating violence in the West Bank launched by both the Israeli military and Israeli settlers against Palestinians. These raids have been ongoing since the Oct. 7 Operation Al-Aqsa Flood attack launched by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. "Palestinians in the West Bank have been subjected to settler violence and forced evictions for years," the outlet continued.  

"Though Smotrich's threat is concerning, it is also unsurprising for someone who has historically been outspoken about his hatred of Palestinians. Last year, Smotrich said he believes there is 'no such thing' as Palestinian people. Earlier this year, he admitted Gaza is a 'ghetto' and said it should be resettled for Israelis."

Israel's offensive against Hamas extending to the West Bank

The Huffington Post also pointed out that Tel Aviv has been justifying its campaign in the Gaza Strip by claiming it wants to dismantle Hamas, formally the Islamic Resistance Movement. But Hamas does not have a presence in the West Bank; the Palestinian National Authority (PA) under Mahmoud Abbas governs the area.

A week before posting the video, Smotrich – who also oversees the budget for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – said he would stop transferring tax revenue earmarked for the PA. He and other members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government are not shy about their desire to annex the West Bank and push Palestinians out. When the government was first formed in December 2022, the coalition issued a statement saying the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank would be prioritized, with annexation being the ultimate goal.

"I think many Palestinians in the West Bank fear that [based on] what Israel is doing in Gaza, the logical extension of it is to continue in the West Bank," said Yousef Munayer, a senior fellow at the nonprofit research organization Arab Center Washington, D.C. (ACW). "It is the wildest dreams of these right-wing extremists to be able to depopulate the West Bank, force those Palestinians out and further establish their control over the territory."

The ACW senior fellow continued: "Now the difference, of course, is that this is coming at a moment [when] there is massive destruction in Gaza. And he is saying 'Well, we're going to do this in the West Bank.' That is threatening a level of violence that we have not seen in the West Bank yet."

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