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Palestinians praise Israeli minister’s condemnation of settler violence

Police minister Barlev sparked coalition spat over his comments on extremist Jewish attacks in the West Bank, with PM Bennett taking exception to his remarks

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry issued a statement in support of Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Barlev on Wednesday, after he noted the need to tackle West Bank violence by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

“This recognition is an initial step in the right direction, but it is not enough,” the ministry said.

Ramallah called on other “centrist and leftist” ministers in the fragile coalition to also speak out on the issue, which it deemed “settler terrorism.”

The current Israeli government ranges from right-wing settler advocates to left-wing supporters of a Palestinian state. Settlements and Israeli policies in the West Bank have repeatedly led to tensions between the government’s fractious elements.

While no official figures have been released, the Shin Bet has reported a 50 percent rise in extremist Jewish attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank over the past year. Pro-Palestinian rights groups lament that Jewish assailants are rarely prosecuted and report that the vast majority of cases are closed without indictments.

Barlev sparked a coalition dustup this week after announcing that he had discussed “settler violence” with a visiting American diplomat. The current government’s right flank accused Barlev — a member of the center-left Labor party — of generalizing the actions of a few extremists to condemn an entire community.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 5, 2021. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett implicitly rebuked Barlev’s remarks on Tuesday, saying that the actions of a “marginal few” should not be taken to reflect the entire settlement movement.

“Settlers in Judea and Samaria have suffered violence and terror, daily, for decades,” Bennett tweeted, referring to the West Bank. “They are the defensive bulwark for all of us, and we must strengthen and support them, in words and actions.”

The PA Foreign Ministry claimed that Barlev’s remarks constituted “the first formal recognition by an Israeli government minister of violations and crimes committed by Jewish terror members against Palestinians.”

Barlev also took flak from opposition figures for the remark, with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party accusing him of “slandering” Israel.

“The Bennett government continues to go off the rails,” Likud said in a tweet that was shared by Netanyahu.

On Tuesday morning, Barlev pushed back, saying his critics were having difficulty “looking in the mirror,” and that settler violence was becoming an issue on the international stage, with foreign governments taking an interest in it.

“I will continue to fight Palestinian terrorism as if there is no extremist settler violence, and extremist settler violence as if there is no Palestinian terrorism,” Barlev said.

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