An Israeli minister has lashed out at US President Joe Biden after the latter stated that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition administration has some “of the most extreme members” he has seen.
“President Biden must internalize that Israel is no longer another star in the American flag,” Israeli national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said in a Sunday evening interview with Channel 14, a right-wing network aligned with Netanyahu.
He added, “In what way am I an extremist? By handing out weapons to Israeli people so that they can defend themselves? In that, I give full backing to our soldiers and officers. I invite Biden to tour Jerusalem (al-Quds) and Hebron (al-Khalil) to see that our extremism is extreme.”
The hawkish Israeli minister’s remarks came after Biden offered rare comments during a CNN interview released on Sunday about the Israeli cabinet.
Biden was pressed on what it would take for him to extend an invitation to Netanyahu to visit the White House, but he dodged the question, noting that Israeli president Isaac Herzog will be coming to Washington next week.
As for Netanyahu, Biden said, “I think, [he] is trying to [figure out] how he can work through his existing problems in terms of his coalition.”
“I’m one of those who believe that Israel’s ultimate security rests in a [so-called] two-state solution,” Biden then said.
He went on: “I think it’s a mistake to think that, as some members of his cabinet — and this is one of the most extreme members of cabinets that I have seen.”
The US president also stated that Israeli cabinet ministers who back settling “anywhere they want” in the West Bank are “part of the problem” in the longstanding conflict with Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s coalition includes extremist elements like Bezalel Smotrich, who serves as finance minister, and Ben-Gvir.
Both of those ministers have vowed to oppose a series of measures aimed at bolstering the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and have voiced fierce opposition to the prospect of a Palestinian state, pushing for settlement expansion and more Israeli control in the West Bank.
Washington has steered clear of both ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet and has expressed deep misgivings about them.
Last month, the White House raised the alarm over the sway the right wing of Netanyahu’s coalition has over policy, especially settlements and the widely-bashed “judicial overhaul” plan.
Three Biden administration officials stated in June that Washington is not convinced that the longtime Likud chairman is in control.
Actually, none of the Israeli cabinet members have gone on record in recent years backing a two-state solution, and many back annexing large parts of the West Bank without granting equal rights to Palestinians in those areas.
Netanyahu even told his right-wing Likud political party last month that Israel must “crush” Palestinian aspirations for a state.
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