(JTA) — Two far-right ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government lashed out after troops had a violent confrontation with Israeli settlers.
The troops were removing settler protesters from West Bank land where settlers had years ago planted trees. Palestinians in the region claim ownership of the land and the Israeli army’s Civil Administration ordered the trees’ removal several years ago — a decision upheld in 2021 by the Supreme Court, which the government is seeking to disempower.
Border Police troops who arrived Wednesday to carry out the uprooting were met by settler protesters, some of whom tied themselves to the trees. One video shows a protester resisting arrest; the border policemen kick and punch him while he is down. The Times of Israel reported that four border policemen were suspended after the action.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, and Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, expressed outrage at the confrontation. Smotrich demanded that Netanyahu accelerate a clause in the coalition agreement to give Smotrich control of civilian matters in the West Bank. Smotrich, believing he already had such powers, had planned to allow the settler, who claims to have legally bought the land, to keep the orchard in place.
“Not in our government!” Smotrich said on Twitter. “This can’t continue,” Ben-Gvir said in a video he posted to social media.
At a press conference, he signaled that he was growing frustrated by working with Netanyahu, who suspended the uprooting after the complaints. “We joined the government on the basis of a commitment that it would be a completely right-wing government, and this policy cannot continue,” he said.
Two lawmakers in the far right Religious Zionism bloc led by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir were on the scene and attempted to intervene. Video shows four policemen surrounding one, Limor Son Har-Melech, and not allowing her to advance, but taking care not to touch her. She later accused them of sexual assault. The Border Police denied the claim.
The violence comes a day after another soldier was sentenced to 10 days detention for kicking a Palestinian journalist, an event that also was caught on video.