Attorney general said to warn ministers to be careful when talking about Hamas war

Gali Baharav-Miara reportedly stresses that incendiary remarks plays into hands of Israel’s enemies, may violate international law; Netanyahu urges them to ‘keep quiet’

File: Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks at Tel Aviv University, September 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks at Tel Aviv University, September 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara warned cabinet ministers to watch their words when they speak about the ongoing war against the Hamas terror group, cautioning that some remarks may violate international law and thereby provide ammunition to Israel’s enemies, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.

Baharav-Miara reportedly issued the warning during a closed-door meeting with ministers during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also chastised the participants over their statements.

The cautions came after controversial statements from some ministers in recent weeks about Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, where it is fighting Hamas following the group’s devastating attack on the country last month.

“These remarks give support to those who wish us ill because they are against the rule of international law and are interpreted as a war crime,” Baharav-Miara said at the Monday meeting, according to the report.

She clarified those rules to the ministers who, according to the network, listened but did not say anything.

Netanyahu also reportedly  told the ministers “you need to learn to keep quiet and to not say things you regret a day later.”

This handout photo issued by the military on November 13, 2023, shows Israeli ground forces in Gaza during the war against the Hamas terror group. (Israel Defense Forces)

The prime minister already issued a similar warning at the cabinet meeting on Sunday when he told ministers, “Every word has meaning when it comes to diplomacy. If you don’t know — don’t speak.”

“We must be sensitive,” he added.

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter told Channel 12 on Saturday that the war was “Gaza’s Nakba” — the Arabic word for “catastrophe” that many Arabs used to describe the displacement of Palestinians amid the 1948 War of Independence.

The term Nakba has been widely used by Arab commentators to describe the devastation of the war, but its use by an Israeli minister gives fuel to claims that Israel is attempting to drive the Palestinian civilian population out of Gaza. Jerusalem insists it has no such plans.

When asked if Gaza residents would be able to return to their homes after the war, Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief, said, “I don’t know how it will end.”

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, interviewed on Channel 12, August 19, 2023. (Channel 12 screenshot)

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu made waves in international media last week when he suggested one of Israel’s options in the war against Hamas could be to drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza, in comments that Netanyahu quickly disavowed before suspending the minister from cabinet meetings.

Eliyahu, a member of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party, was speaking in an answer to a question in a radio interview.

“Your expectation is that tomorrow morning we’d drop what amounts to some kind of nuclear bomb on all of Gaza, flattening them, eliminating everybody there…” the interviewer for Radio Kol Berama said.

“That’s one way,” Eliyahu responded. “The second way is to work out what’s important to them, what scares them, what deters them.”

He later walked back the remark, saying he had been speaking metaphorically.

Meanwhile, several ministers have stated that Israel could or should consider rebuilding its settlements in the Strip — which had been uprooted during Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory in 200 — again contradicting Israel’s official position that it has no intention to reoccupy Gaza for the long term.

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu attends a ceremony at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has faced mounting international pressure over its military campaign as the reported death toll from Gaza has risen, with commentators expecting that calls for a ceasefire will only intensify as the weeks go by and the civilian costs rise. Israel declared war on Hamas after some 3,000 terrorists burst through the border from Gaza and slaughtered 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and abducted some 240 on October 7.

Jerusalem views global support — and US support in particular — as crucial for its effort to dismantle Hamas in the Strip, and has increasingly allowed humanitarian aid and civilian travel corridors amid the fighting.

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