Right-wing lawmakers blast Interior Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev for discussing settler violence with U.S. diplomat, without defending Jewish State; Bar-Lev doubles down on remarks.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev’s comments about settler violence sparked outrage among Israel’s right wing politicians on Monday, including harsh criticism from lawmakers that are currently serving in the government alongside him.
“I met today with the Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, Ms. Victoria Nuland,” Bar-Lev wrote on Twitter, alongside a photo of himself shaking hands with the diplomat.
“The Deputy Secretary of State was interested [in discussing] among other things, settler violence and how to reduce tensions in the region and strengthening the Palestinian Authority.”
Bar-Lev said he told Nuland that issuing more work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel “is a key to reducing tensions,” as well as Israel bankrolling a joint Palestinian-Israeli industrial zone near Gaza.
Right-wing Israeli lawmakers and watchdog groups have long held that reports of settler violence against Palestinians are over exaggerated, and that the media and international bodies like the U.N. disproportionately focus on violence perpetrated by Jews while ignoring and excusing attacks committed by Arabs.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir of the Religious Zionism party said Bar-Lev was “defaming the settlers who guard the State of Israel and physically defend the Land of Israel and its borders. He defames those pure salt of the earth,” adding that he should “resign immediately.”
“You’re confused,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Yamina party responded to Bar-Lev on Twitter.
“What should shock us are the daily incidents in which stones and Molotov cocktails are thrown at Jews — just because they are Jews — with the support of the Palestinian Authority.”
“I suggest that you talk about this violence with Madam Nuland.”
Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, also from the Yamina party, said in a statement that it was “sad” to see a security official such as Bar-Lev “accept a false and distorted narrative.”
Kahana called on Bar-Lev to “take back” his words.
The comments appear to hint at discord within the coalition, as the eclectic collection of parties spanning from the left to right ends of the political spectrum struggle to find middle ground on a number of fundamental issues.
But Bar-Lev seemed by the criticism, doubling down on his remarks in a follow-up tweet on Tuesday morning.
Those offended by his remarks, Bar-Lev wrote, are upset that he’d held up “a mirror in front of your face that proves [reports of] extremist settler violence reaches the whole world and foreign governments are interested in the issue.”
“Whoever is having a hard time with this should drink a glass of water,” he added.