Minister Equates Palestinians to Prisoners: Justifying Restrictions

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu on Sunday compared restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank — to improve security for Israeli settlers — to putting criminals behind bars.

“If someone is a threat to my life, I slightly encroach on their civil rights while allowing law-abiding people to continue their normal lives,” Elihayu told Ynet.

“In prison, detainees are deprived of their civil rights so that the rest of society can live better,” he continued. “Is this apartheid? »

Eliyahu, who is a member of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, said: “You can shout it a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it apartheid. »

Last week, his party’s leader, Homeland Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, drew public ire when he said, following deadly terrorist attacks against Israeli settlers, that his family had more right to be in the West Bank than the Palestinians.

The Biden administration and representative organizations of American Jews have spoken out against the remarks, with the US State Department even going so far as to quote him by name. In the same week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disagreed with Ben Gvir’s remarks, saying that Israel was working to ensure the greatest possible freedom of movement for the Israeli and Palestinian populations in the West Bank.

“We need to ensure that good Israeli Arabs ‘in the West Bank’ can move freely, without too much negative impact on their lives, to ensure the order of things,” Eliyahu continued.

On the other hand, those who throw stones, who throw Molotov cocktails, who attack our lives, who indulge in harangues against us in schools or mosques, we are forced, without joy of heart, to limit their freedom of movement. »

Eliyahu did not explain how he intends to differentiate between these two groups of people.

Ben Gvir said on Sunday morning before the Council of Ministers that his remarks had been twisted by “the Israeli far left” to harm him and that what he meant was that “the right to life trumps the right to freedom of movement”.

On Friday, a senior diplomat told the Ynet news site that Ben Gvir’s remarks were “harming Israel’s public diplomacy and giving a glimpse of the true face of this government.”

“The damage is immense,” the anonymous source said, adding that Ben Gvir’s remarks gave Israel critics “every reason” to support their thesis that Israel is a racist state that practices apartheid. .

They noted that, at the time, neither Netanyahu nor government ministers challenged Ben Gvir’s statements, making it difficult to argue that this is not the government’s official position.

The reputation for racism that surrounds Ben Gvir is nothing new and has its roots in his provocations towards Arabs and Palestinians as well as in his past as a disciple of Meir Kahane.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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