Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro commented this morning (Sunday) on a report that the US is considering preventing Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich from entering the country. Shapiro served as Ambassador to Israel from 2011-2017 under the Obama Administration.
"I don't know if there is even such a discussion within the administration, there is a process for obtaining a visa, and if he has a visa then he will go there for the meeting," Shapiro told Galai Tzahal (IDF Radio). "However, this certainly does not help relations between the countries."
He criticized Smotrich's statement last week that he would like to see the Arab village of Huwara "wiped out."
"I don't know a person who loves Israel more than Biden, but expressions like what we heard from Minister Smotrich harm the relations between the countries.
"It is clear that there will be a meeting between Biden and Netanyahu at the appropriate time. It is also clear that right now all the concentration and attention, even in Israel, is focused on internal matters, such as the fight over the judicial reforms, the demonstrations, and the legislation," he said.
Smotrich is scheduled to visit the US this week for an Israel Bonds conference. Following the shooting attack in Huwara in which brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv were murdered last Sunday, Smotrich said: "I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it."
Channel 12 News’ Dana Weiss reported discussions are currently taking place in Washington on whether to grant Smotrich an entry visa, partly on the grounds that he incites violence and promotes war crimes. According to the report, the Biden Administration considers Smotrich to be “persona non grata on steroids.”
US State Department Spokesman Ned Price called Smotrich's remarks "irresponsible, repugnant. and disgusting," while US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides reportedly said that he wanted to ban Smotrich from entering the US.
"I am really angry with him. He is a fool," Nides reportedly said, according to Channel 12 News. "He has a flight to Washington, and if I could, I would throw him off the plane."
Last night, Smotrich walked back his remarks in a conversation with Meet the Press.
"It wasn't the correct word, I misspoke," he said of his use of the term 'wipe out.' "We need to be clear in our fight against terror."
"The statement was made in the heat of emotions. I'm embarrassed that I have to clarify and that there are those who think that I support harming innocent civilians," he explained.
Smotrich had previously clarified his remarks, saying: "Once again the media is taking a quote of mine and trying to create a distorted interpretation of it. If they had played my entire remarks, you would have heard that I was talking about how Huwara is a hostile village that has become a terrorist outpost from which terrorist operations are launched every day, of rock throwing and shooting against Jews, but it is forbidden in any way to take the law into one's own hands."