Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli finance minister, expressed his remorse for a statement he made following the Hawara riots following the death of Hallel and Yagel Yaniv HyD on February 26 in a speech to the Israel Bonds organization on Sunday evening.
Although Smotrich believed vigilante justice was wrong, he also believed Israel should “wipe out” the community. Being a minister in the Defense Ministry and a member of Israel’s security cabinet gave Smotrich’s statements extra weight, and as a result, they drew scathing international condemnation.
State Department spokesman Ned Price called the statement “repugnant” and “disgusting” and demanded that it be retracted. Smotrich’s visit was entirely avoided by the US, who even pondered denying him admission and decided against diplomatic meetings with the Israeli government representative.
Smotrich addressed the group, saying, “I want to say a few words about the elephant in the room.
“As I have previously stated, in writing, and now with heartfelt remorse, my remarks concerning Hawara gave the wrong impression. As I stand before you right now, I want you to know that I have always been dedicated to the security of the State of Israel, to our shared ideals, and to the highest moral duty of our military forces to defend every innocent life, whether it be Jewish or Arab.
“Controversies have always existed in Judaism. Even so, we may argue that it was founded on conflicts. Conflict shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for us. Instead, it makes us richer, the minister claimed.
“Among us are people of all religions and none, as well as reformers, conservatives, and others. Even though there are significant disparities between us in Israel, we must remember that we are brothers for a minute.
Smotrich continued, “Despite all of the distinctions, despite the myriad hues that make up the Jewish mosaic, we are one,” stressing that they all had the same aspiration of “tikkun olam,” or fixing the world, a motto for many progressive American Jews he had previously disparaged.
Together, he continued, “I do not doubt we will succeed.
But, left-wing protesters outside the Israel Bonds gathering were dissatisfied, stating their opposition to Smotrich for his comments, his conservative principles, and the judicial reforms now being approved in Israel.
“To our Israeli sisters and brothers, we say: ‘We are with you at every moment in your struggle against racism, against homophobia, against extremism and for democracy, tolerance, equality, and human rights,'” remarked Susie Gelman, who leads the board of the center-left Israel Policy Forum.
“We are here tonight because Bezalel Smotrich’s racism, homophobia, and fanaticism do not, and cannot, represent the values of Jews in Israel and around the world.”
From Baltimore, Maryland, Rabbi Andy Gordon and Rabbi Alyssa Sachs Cohen attended the event. According to Cohen, “As American Jews, we have a solid relationship with Israel, and we love Israel, but it’s important for us to care about the values that Israel was founded on; The idea of democracy, the idea that it’s a Jewish homeland for all, and that we care for all Israel citizens,” he said.
Israel’s democracy, according to Sachs-Cohen, is vital to the country’s survival. Because I care about Israel, I want to ensure that it continues to be a democratic nation for all.
Not only have US government officials boycotted Smotrich but nearly all Jewish organizations in the country as well.
A pledge against hosting Smotrich was signed by 73 liberal Jewish organizations, three of which urged the Biden administration to deny him the visa he needs to enter the US. While not signing the boycott pledge, influential mainstream organizations like the Conference of Presidents, the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, and the Anti-Defamation League have decided not to meet with Smotrich.
On Smotrich’s visit to the US, only the OU and the Zionist Organization of America announced they would meet with him.