Ben Gvir to Blinken: Not time to speak softly with Hamas, time for that big stick

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir addresses a tweet in English at visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying, “it’s not the time to speak softly with Hamas, it’s time to use that big stick.”

Ben Gvir’s paraphrase of the oft-quoted quip of US president Theodore Roosevelt comes as Blinken is in Israel meeting with senior government figures in an effort to wind down intense fighting in the Gaza Strip and improve access to humanitarian aid in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Both Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, also a far-right lawmaker, have raged against statements by senior Israeli officials in recent days that the IDF is shifting from high impact operations to a lower-intensity phase of the war.

Ben Gvir has also pushed back against US condemnation of his (and Smotrich’s) call to resettle Palestinians outside of Gaza, declaring last week that while he admires the United States, “we are not another star in the American flag.”

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