The Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has sparked outrage after he called for the assassination of thousands of Palestinians who oppose the Israel occupation of their land. Ben-Gvir, who leads the far-right party Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit), made the controversial remarks during a visit to the illegal settlement of Givat Lahava in the West Bank on Monday.
Ben-Gvir, who is known for his extremist views and support for violence against Palestinians, said that the Israeli occupation should adopt a policy of “targeted killings” against anyone who resists its rule. He claimed that this would deter future attacks and restore Israel’s deterrence. He also accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of inciting violence and supporting terrorism.
“We need to return to the policy of targeted killings, and kill anyone who harms us,” Ben-Gvir said. “We need to kill thousands of them, not just one or two. We need to make it clear that anyone who raises a hand against a Jew will pay with his life.”
Ben-Gvir’s comments were met with condemnation from Palestinian officials, human rights groups and some Israeli politicians. The PA’s Foreign Ministry said that Ben-Gvir’s statements were “a clear call for genocide and ethnic cleansing” and urged the international community to intervene and hold him accountable. The ministry also warned that such statements could fuel more violence and hatred in the region.
“Ben-Gvir is a racist fanatic who represents the most extreme and dangerous ideology in Israel,” the ministry said in a statement. “He is a threat to peace and security, not only for the Palestinian people, but for the entire region and the world.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Ben-Gvir’s remarks were “a blatant incitement to murder” and violated international law. The group called on Israel to investigate and prosecute him for his crimes.
“Ben-Gvir’s call for mass killings of Palestinians is abhorrent and criminal,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s director for Israel and Palestine. “Israel should not tolerate such hateful rhetoric from its officials, let alone its national security minister.”
Some Israeli politicians also denounced Ben-Gvir’s statements as irresponsible and dangerous. Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party and a potential rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Ben-Gvir was “a disgrace to Israel” and should be removed from his post.
“Ben-Gvir is not fit to be a minister, let alone a national security minister,” Lapid tweeted. “He is endangering Israel’s security and its relations with its allies. He should resign immediately or be fired by Netanyahu.”
However, Netanyahu, who relies on Ben-Gvir’s support to maintain his fragile coalition government, did not comment on his ally’s remarks. Netanyahu has been accused of courting Ben-Gvir and other far-right parties in order to secure his political survival amid an ongoing corruption trial and four inconclusive elections in two years.
Ben-Gvir, who was elected to the Knesset for the first time in March 2023, has a long history of radicalism and provocation. He is a follower of the late Meir Kahane, an American-born rabbi who advocated for the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands and whose party Kach was banned in 1994 for its racism and terrorism. Ben-Gvir has also been involved in several violent incidents against Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces, and has been arrested dozens of times.
In 1995, he infamously stole a sign from then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car that read “Peace is made with enemies”. He later boasted that he had fulfilled Kahane’s prophecy that Rabin would end up like a “pursued man”. A few weeks later, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist who opposed his peace efforts with the Palestinians.
Ben-Gvir has also expressed admiration for Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler who massacred 29 Palestinians at a mosque in Hebron in 1994. He has also defended Jewish terrorists who plotted to bomb a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem in 2002.
Ben-Gvir currently lives in Hebron, one of the most volatile areas in the West Bank, where he leads a group of radical settlers who harass and attack Palestinian residents.
Ben-Gvir has said that his ultimate goal is to annex the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip and establish a Jewish state based on religious law. He has also vowed to oppose any peace negotiations or concessions with the Palestinians.
“I am here to say loud and clear: There will be no Palestinian state, there will be no division of Jerusalem, there will be no evacuation of settlements,” Ben-Gvir said in his maiden speech in the Knesset. “We are here to protect the land of Israel and the people of Israel.”