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Israel: Officials fear Smotrich's statements 'could harm ties with Jordan and Egypt'

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Sunday that 'there's no such thing as a Palestinian people'
Israel's Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich attends a meeting at the parliament, 20 March 2023 (AFP)
Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist Party, at a meeting in parliament on 20 March 2023 (AFP)

Israeli security officials are reportedly concerned about potential damage to ties with Egypt and Jordan following controversial statements made by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

The leader of the Religious Zionism political alliance said on Sunday that "there were no such thing as Palestinian people" in a speech he gave in Paris, showing a map of Jordan, mandatory Palestine, areas of Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as part of Israel.

He also said that the Palestinian town of Huwwara, in the occupied West Bank, should be "wiped out" following the killing of two Israeli settlers in February.

According to Kan broadcasting corporation, Jordan had reprimanded its ambassador in Tel Aviv this week, while Israel's National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi held talks with Ayman al-Safadi, Jordan's foreign minister, in an attempt to calm the situation. 

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Kan reported that Smotrich's undiplomatic remarks could affect security coordination between Israel, Jordan and Egypt ahead of the volatile days of Ramadan. 

Kan's report added that Smotrich's words could harm ties with Jordan, which is of great importance to Israel, and shatter security understandings forged in meetings held in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh this month.

Middle East Eye could not independently verify the report. 

Irgun's map

Smotrich declared on Sunday at a memorial service for a late Likud activist in Paris that "There's no such thing as Palestinians because there's no such thing as a Palestinian people."

He said that the Palestinian people were "an invention" cooked up in the 20th century to fight Zionism and that it was people like him and his grandparents who were the "real Palestinians". 

Speaking at a podium adorned with a map based on the crest of the Zionist Irgun militia, which shows Israel straddling the West Bank and Jordan, Smotrich said that the French and US governments needed to hear "this truth" about the Palestinians.  

“Do you know who are the Palestinians?” the head of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party said. "I'm Palestinian."

Smotrich referred to his grandmother, who was born in the northern Israeli town of Metula over a century ago, and his grandfather, who was a 13th-generation Jerusalemite.

Smotrich has previously said that his surname is derived from the Ukrainian town of Smotrych, where he has said his ancestors lived.

Following Smotrich's statement in Paris, Israel's Foreign Ministry said: "Israel is committed to the peace agreement with Jordan, in 1994. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel which recognises the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom."

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