One day after six liberal American Jewish groups called for the US to bar entry to Bezalel Smotrich, which resulted from his call for “wiping out” the Palestinian village of Huwara, 120 mainstream leaders joined the chorus of opposition to his visit. As finance minister, he was invited to address a closed national conference of Israel Bonds, which raises billions in investments for Israel. He will speak on March 12th at 6PM at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in DC. The global Israeli (ex-pat) anti-government group, UnXceptable, will be protesting there. If you are in DC, I hope you will join them. I hope other American Jewish groups will be protesting as well.
Opposition has been brewing for days, after the speech was announced. Secretary of State spokesperson, Ned Price, was asked earlier this week, whether the US would permit him to enter the country. Price offered a non-committal response.
Yesterday, I posted about the statements of the liberal groups, especially highlighting that of Jewish Voice for Peace Action. This served as a preface to today’s announcement from some of the most powerful pro-Israel figures in the country. They denounced Smotrich in explicit and unprecedented terms. Such leaders never utter such statements publicly, directly attacking an Israeli minister. We are in uncharted waters here:
“…[We] reject the notion that someone must be accorded respect simply by dint of serving in the Israeli government. His presence in the U.S. to address primarily Jewish audiences would be an affront to American Jewish values, and he should not be given a platform in our community, all the more so in light of his most recent comments about Huwara,”
The statement continues:
…We are opposed to Bezalel Smotrich visiting the United States later this month in his capacity as Israel’s finance minister, and we call on all pro-Israel Americans to understand that welcoming Smotrich here will harm, rather than help, support for Israel.
Smotrich has long expressed views that are abhorrent to the vast majority of American Jews, from anti-Arab racism, to virulent homophobia, to a full-throated embrace of Jewish supremacy. To this list, we can now add his endorsement of violence against innocents based on their ethnic heritage.”
Israel Bonds, which is at the center of the drama, feigned non-partisanship in an unpersuasive statement:
One of the organization’s most unique and paramount attributes is that it remains unbiased with regard to any political party or affiliation, enabling all to show unwavering support for the wellbeing of Israel and its people, through investments in Israel bonds,” it added.
It’s one thing to be “unbiased regarding Party or affiliation,” but you cannot remain so in the face of advocacy of genocide and a terrorist past, which characterize Smotrich.
Israeli media report that the US government is pressuring Israel Bonds and Netanyahu to either cancel Smotrich’s appearance or to persuade the minister himself to cancel his trip. If not, the Biden administration appears to be contemplating barring him from entering the country.
Smotrich, US citizen?
Israeli journalist, Barak Ravid, told Radio 103 a few days ago that Smotrich cannot be barred from US entry because…he is a US citizen! As if this story isn’t complicated enough! This is a translation of this portion of the interview:
“Thankfully for Smotrich, my understanding is that he has American citizenship. Therefore, the Americans cannot prevent his entry…This is perhaps the biggest problem facing them thus far. They don’t know what to do with him, so I understand.
In any event, Smotrich leaves in another week and a half and no one in the US government will meet him. This is unprecedented for an Israeli finance minister to travel to the US and for the US Treasure Secretary not to meet him. And further, that no one else in the government would either. I don’t believe there is any precedent for this since the founding of the State.”
Ravid is a top-notch, impeccably-sourced reporter and I give anything he reports a great deal of weight.
On the one hand, I’m skeptical because the three main ways for a foreign national to gain citizenship are by seven years of residency; both parents being US citizens; or being born in the US. I’ve never heard that Smotrich lived in the US at all, let alone for seven years. Smotrich’s spokesperson denied the claim, saying that he was born in Israel, and that his father was a rabbi of Ukrainian origin; and his mother’s family came from Vilna.
On the other hand, nothing would surprise me regarding this corrupt, lying lot. Given Ravid’s track record, I would not discount his report out of hand.
If it is true, it is a blockbuster: under Israel’s Basic Law, no one may serve as minister or MK if they hold foreign citizenship. If that country permits renouncing citizenship and the Israeli makes an effort to do so, then he may serve. US citizens may renounce citizenship. Thus, if Smotrich was a US citizen but did not renounce his citizenship, then he was never eligible to serve in the Knesset, let alone as a minister. If all this is true, then Bibi better get on the horn with Yariv Levin and cook up a new Knesset bill which would override the Basic Law, to permit his terror chum-scum to stay in the coalition. If not, then Bibi’s a* is cooked. He has coalition without Smotrich.
Smotrich in damage-control mode
Smotrich is now attempting to engage in damage control, claiming his genocidal comments were “a slip of the tongue.” He didn’t take back anything he said. Nor did he claim his remarks were misreported. It was all said, he claimed, in the heat of emotion of the moment:
“It is possible that it wasn’t the right choice of words,” attributing the remarks to “a slip of the tongue in a torrent of emotion.”
“My intention was very clear: We must be on the offensive and show more initiative in the fight against terrorism, because people are dying,” he added.
No, that was not your intention, and that much is “very clear.” You meant what you said and you don’t deny it.
US ambassador Tom Nides is reputed to have said that if he were traveling on the same plane as Smotrich he would “throw him off.” Smotrich, who apparently hasn’t mastered American-English colloquial speech, interpreted this as a death threat. If he or his advisors knew our language, they would understand that throwing someone off means to kick them off, the plane in this case. In other words, Nides said he would eject Smotrich from the flight.
Further, you would have to be an absolute idiot to believe a US diplomat would say he would murder a minister of a foreign government. Smotrich was doing a “Netanyahu,” in this regard (Ben Gvir is expert at this, as well). That is, attempting to drum up sympathy by inventing threats against them by their political opponents. They believe that such histrionics play to their supporters.
But in this case, Smotrich is playing to a US audience as well, especially the US government. And Joe Biden is not going to be amused by Smotrich’s “drama queen” gambit. This isn’t minor league ball here. And Jerusalem is not Washington DC. We play by different rules. Ones Smotrich clearly doesn’t understand.