Israel PM backs his ‘racist’ minister

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed his firebrand Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir following a row over remarks backing settlers’ rights in the occupied West Bank.

Ben Gvir had sparked backlash, including from supermodel Bella Hadid, when he defended restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and settlers’ rights to free movement in an interview.

“My right, and that of my wife and children, to travel on the roads of Judea and Samaria, is more important than the freedom of movement of Arabs,” he said, using Israel’s term for the West Bank.

His remarks sparked a row with supermodel Hadid, whose father is Palestinian and who posted on Instagram criticising Ben Gvir’s remarks, prompting the firebrand minister to take to X, formerly Twitter, and describe her as an “Israel hater”.

Ben Gvir is an outspoken champion of the interests of Israelis who live in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the West Bank is home to nearly three million Palestinians and around 490,000 Israeli settlers.

Netanyahu threw his weight behind Ben Gvir, saying: “Israel allows maximum freedom of movement in Judea and Samaria for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Unfortunately, Palestinian terrorists take advantage of this freedom of movement to murder Israeli women, children and families”.

The statement said recent attacks have resulted in “special security measures in these areas”.

“This is what minister Ben- Gvir meant when he said ‘the right to life precedes freedom of movement’,” it added.

The statement comes days after a settler was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank near the Palestinian city of Hebron.

That came two days after an Israeli father and son were shot in the northern West Bank town of Huwara.

Ben Gvir’s remarks also drew sharp criticism from the Palestinian Authority, which described them as “racist and heinous” and labelled the minister a “fascist”.

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