United Right chair Ayelet Shaked compared her party colleague MK Bezalel Smotrich to US President Donald Trump on Monday, a day after he launched an acerbic tweet storm against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Smotrich, the transportation minister, is “a bit like Trump,” Shaked told Kan public radio. “His style is inappropriate, but he is absolutely right on substance.”
“We have no control over his tweets,” Shaked added of Smotrich, who has an often combative social media style, lobbing insults and engaging in name calling against his political foes
Both Shaked and Smotrich were highly critical of Netanyahu on Sunday, accusing him of shutting down the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors on Tisha B’Av, the annual Jewish day of mourning for the loss of the two temples that once stood at the contested Jerusalem holy site. Sunday was also Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday commemorating the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The two conservative politicians issued scathing tweets against the prime minister, with Smotrich accusing him of “a surrender to Arab terrorism and violence at the holiest place in Judaism” and Shaked posting that “closing off the Temple Mount to Jews due to concerns of violence will only bring more violence.”
Police temporarily banned Jewish visitors from the flashpoint site in Jerusalem early Sunday, as religious tensions spiked over the confluence of the Jewish and Muslim holy days. Later on in the afternoon, following a furor from right-wing ministers and lawmakers — as well as clashes between police and Muslim worshipers that left more than 60 injured — police began allowing Jewish visitors into the Temple Mount compound.
Netanyahu pushed back against the attacks, asserting that he had never intended to close the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors and that his only consideration was “how to manage it optimally for the public’s safety, which is exactly what we did.”
“I am not impressed by all the recommendations of the Twitter cabinet,” Netanyahu added, alluding to Shaked and Smotrich’s criticism. “Leadership is responsibility and determination. That is how we have acted, and that is how we will continue to act.”
Smotrich also attacked Netanyahu over a Sunday court decision prohibiting the Afula municipality from holding a gender-segregated musical performance planned for next week at a public park. The ruling forbids organizers from seating men and women separately during the performance, saying it contravenes the principle of equality.
Smotrich called Israel’s legal system “stupid” in light of the decision. “I apologize, but despite my position I can’t find a more refined word [to describe the ruling],” he tweeted. He went on to accuse a “weak” Netanyahu of showing “zero leadership” in the face of “judicial activism.”
Shaked agreed with Smotrich’s position, if not his tone, telling Kan, “I think we should respect everyone, and let everyone live by their faith.”
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis on Monday demanded that Smotrich apologize for his “defamatory” statements, tweeting that “there is a way to engage in criticism, especially for a new and temporary minister.”
Defending his Twitter style, Smotrich said Monday that “when something hurts me I cry out.”
Smotrich’s Twitter account was temporarily suspended last year after he tweeted that Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teen protester who was filmed slapping an IDF soldier, should have been shot. He was banned from the social media site for 12 hours for “offensive behavior,” along with a demand he remove the tweet.
More recently, he got into a heated social media battle with MK Stav Shaffir, calling the opposition lawmaker “stupid” after she took to Twitter to blame members of the religious right for the stabbing of a LGBTQ teen in Tel Aviv.
Smotrich, who has boasted of being a “proud homophobe,” later tweeted that “someone at the top of the IDF has heatstroke” in response to the IDF’s reported efforts to increase the integration of transgender soldiers.