Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev caused a political storm on Monday after he told a top U.S. official that Israel views settler violence "severely" and that it is taking steps to tackle the phenomenon.
In a meeting with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Jane Nuland, Bar-Lev said that Israel is working on bolstering police in the West Bank and providing clearer instructions to Israeli troops on how to deal with attacks by Jews on Palestinians.
Nuland had told Bar-Lev that the U.S. State Department is monitoring settler violence. In November, Defense Minister Benny Gantz had pledged to ramp up enforcement against the attacks, after Israeli saw a 150 percent increase in cases from 2019 to 2021.
However, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked took to Twitter to retort the comments. "You are confused. The settlers are the salt of the earth," she said, adding that they are continuing the tradition of previous Zionist pioneers. "The violence that is shocking is the dozens of cases of stone-throwing and beatings of the Jews that happen daily, and all this with the encouragement and support of the Palestinian Authority."
Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, also from Yamina, said that "it is sad to see a security man rich in experience and years, get such a false and distorted narrative," echoing Shaked that the settlers "are not violent but pioneers."
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Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich slammed Bar-Lev on Twitter, while also criticizing Shaked for "making him a minister."
"Sorry for the bluntness, but you're just a bastard," he wrote. "Hundreds of thousands of heroic settlers experience terror daily and have paid a dear blood price and you shed their blood in filth and participate in a false, antisemitic campaign that defames them so you can play enlightened and please a bunch of hypocrites. Shame on you, little man."