Israel Bonds Not Commenting on Israeli Minister
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Israel Bonds Not Commenting on Israeli Minister

Atlantan's statement steers clear of call by upcoming speaker that Palestinian village be "wiped out."

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich // Photo Courtesy of Yonatan Sindel
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich // Photo Courtesy of Yonatan Sindel

The Israel Bonds organization, soon to host Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, is not commenting on Smotrich’s call that a Palestinian village be “wiped out” after a gunman killed two Israeli brothers traveling on a nearby highway.

Smotrich is scheduled to speak March 12 to the Israel Bonds National Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.  Numerous Jewish groups have condemned Smotrich’s remarks and said they will not meet with him during his visit to the United States. Some have called on the U.S. government to deny Smotrich entry to the country.

Smotrich was rebuked by State Department spokesman Ned Price at a March 1 briefing. “I want to be very clear about this. These comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting,” Price said. “And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence.” A National Security Council spokeswoman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “No U.S. government meetings are planned for this trip,” including the Treasury Department, the counterpart to Smotrich’s ministry.

Speaking March 1 to a conference sponsored by an Israeli financial publication, Smotrich was asked why he “liked” a Twitter post by Samaria Regional Council deputy mayor Davidi Ben Zion that called “to wipe out the village of Huwara today.”

Smotrich responded: “The village of Hawara needs to be wiped out. I think that the State of Israel needs to do that – not, God forbid, private individuals.”

Hours later, on his Facebook page, Smotrich attempted to walk back those words, writing: “For the sake of clear doubt, in my words I did not intend to erase the village of Khawara but only to act targetedly against the terrorists and supporters of terrorism inside it and charge them a heavy price to restore security to the residents of the area.”

On Feb. 26, a Palestinian gunman, identified as being from Huwara, shot and killed two Israel brothers, residents of the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha, as they traveled on the Route 60 highway. According to the Times of Israel: “Graphic footage from the attack in Huwara showed the victims’ car riddled with bullets. Troops at the scene found 12 nine-millimeter shell casings, indicting the attacker used a handgun or makeshift submachine gun.”

Times of Israel reported that this “was followed by extremist settlers rampaging through the Nablus-area town and setting homes and cars on fire, resulting in one Palestinian shot dead and several badly hurt.”

Israel’s top general in the West Bank (also known by the Biblical names Judea and Samaria) called the settlers’ action a “pogrom.”

Chuck Berk heads the Atlanta chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Chuck Berk of Atlanta, chair of the Israel Bonds National Campaign Council, provided the following response to questions from the AJT about Smotrich:

“Development Corporation for Israel, known as Israel Bonds, has always maintained a focus on one core mission: to generate financial support through the sale of Israel bonds for the building and development of Israel’s economy without regard to politics.

“We are a nonpartisan financial organization, which sells Israel bonds issued by the State of Israel through its Finance Ministry. As part of their long-established responsibilities, Israel’s finance ministers from across the political spectrum have historically, over Israel Bonds’ 72-year history, attended our events. One of the organization’s most unique and paramount attributes is that it remains unbiased with regard to any political party or affiliation, enabling all to show unwavering support for the wellbeing of Israel and its people, through investments in Israel bonds.”

In addition to serving as Finance Minister in the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, serves as a minister in the Defense Ministry, with authority over housing construction in the West Bank and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog told CNN: “Notwithstanding the fact that Israel has been subjected to a recent wave of horrific terror attacks against its civilians, it is absolutely not Israeli policy and it’s against our values to respond by wiping out civilian villages.”

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