Israeli Minister Suggests Jews Who Attacked Cops Should Be Treated Differently Than Arab 'Enemies'

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich responds to the injury of a policeman from stones thrown from the Yitzhar settlement during demolition of a nearby structure

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich
Olivier Fitoussi

A Border Police officer was injured lightly on Monday when he was hit by stones thrown in the course of the demolition by Israeli authorities of a structure near the settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank. Video footage from the scene shows a group of at least five young people throwing stones at two police officers who were standing on a road at the edge of Yitzhar.

In response, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the United Right slate, who is a resident of the settlement of Kedumim, tweeted on Tuesday: “There is no comparison between a brother and an enemy … I treat my brothers differently, even if they are hardened criminals.”

Smotrich also responded to a tweet from Knesset member Yoaz Hendel (Kahol Lavan), who wrote that a firm response needs to be shown to those who attack security forces. “I don’t care whether the attackers are Palestinians or Jews,” Hendel tweeted, prompting Smotrich to respond: “I do care if the attackers are Arabs or Jews … Yoaz, life is a bit more complicated than your populist slogans and comparisons.”

“The distinction between enemy and criminal is not based on religion, race or gender, but on facts and motives. An enemy is one who wants to exterminate you. Criminality has completely different motives. Your comparison between handling crime and fighting the enemy is ludicrous and demonstrates a loss of moral and practical sense,” Smotrich stated.

Stone-throwing at border police at the Yitzhar settlement, July 29, 2019.

Two months ago, far-right activists threw stones and other objects at police officers sitting in a police car at the Kippah Sruga outpost near Yitzhar. The activists, who wore masks, also slashed the tires of two police vehicles and fled.

Monday’s incident was unusual, a security official told Haaretz. While such incidents have occurred during the evacuation of unauthorized outposts around Yitzhar, such an attack on security forces within the boundaries of the settlement itself is rare, he explained. Monday’s demolition was carried out by the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank and the Border Police.

“Those whom we guard and whose lives we protect throughout the year resort to severe violence against those forces when it comes to the demolition or evacuation of an illegal building,” said the official, who alleged that the stone-throwers, whom he said were masked, receive backing from residents of Yitzhar. The residents and the settlement’s leadership have failed to put an end to the violence, he added.

“At the same time, we will continue to act with determination against the illegal construction and to apprehend the masked criminals who threw rocks at the forces.”

The removal of huts built without permits at unauthorized West Bank outposts is a common occurrence, taking place every few weeks. But many other unauthorized outposts – the more established ones – have not been evacuated and even receive army protection.

Since 2017, at least 16 new unauthorized outposts have been established in the West Bank, Haaretz reported last week. Some are guarded by the army and others have been ignored by authorities.