Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Saturday lashed out at two Arab Israeli lawmakers, seeming to call for the expulsion of Arab Israelis from Israel with a reference to the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane.
In response to two Arab Israeli politicians vowing to fight discrimination in Israel, Smotrich posted on Twitter the verse from the Book of Numbers: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.”
“Barbs in Your Eyes” was a phrase used by Kahane to call for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.
Smotrich’s post was responding to MKs from the Joint List alliance of Arab majority parties.
Joint List MK Aida Touma-Slima wrote: “After the establishment of a Palestinian state? I’ll keep living here in this country, and will keep struggling for a country of all its citizens.”
Mtanes Shihadeh of the Balad party, part of the Joint List, said in reference to the alliance’s strong showing in last week’s election that “Arab society has spoken, and it wants a change in its status and aspires to end discrimination and racism.”
Kahane’s Kach party was banned from the Knesset for racism in 1988. Before its banishment, lawmakers at the time made a habit of walking out of the plenum when the anti-coexistence MK spoke.
Smotrich also trained fire on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Saturday spoke out against the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, saying he would have won more votes in last week’s election if the faction had dropped out of the race. The party failed to clear the electoral threshold.
Netanyahu said Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir had offered to drop out shortly before the election. “That could have changed the whole picture,” Netanyahu said.
But, the prime minister explained, Ben Gvir had demanded as his price that Jewish prayer be permitted on the Temple Mount, something Netanyahu said could have stoked violence across the Middle East.
Smotrich, the head of the right-wing National Union party, which is a part of the Yamina alliance and an ally of the prime minister, responded soon after the speech on Twitter.
“Good day Mr. Prime Minister. If there is something that stokes violence, it’s capitulation to it. Not Jews praying in their most holy place,” Smotrich wrote.