On Thursday, June 9, a racist far-right lawmaker called the birthrate among Arab-Bedouin women in the Negev desert a demographic “time bomb” that Israel needs to defuse. MK Bezalel Smotrich, Transportation Minister in Netanyahu’s previous government, made the remark during a tour of the Negev with fellow members of the Yamina (“Rightwards”) alliance. “This is the type of bomb where if we don’t neutralize the explosive mechanism, it will explode with all the more force against us,” he said, and stated that his goal is “to maintain the Jewish majority, not just in Israel but in the Negev.”
“Smotrich is desperate for attention. I demand they issue a restraining order against him for gas stations, in case he repeats the mistakes of the past,” Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, head of Joint, wrote on Twitter. Odeh was referring to Smotrich’s arrest by the Shin Bet security service ahead of the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Smotrich was held on suspicion of planning to block major roads and for stockpiling gasoline to allegedly damage infrastructure in a bid to prevent the withdrawal, but was released without charges being filed against him. Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) called Smotrich a “racist and Arabophobe”, who she said never, missed a chance to incite against Arabs.
Smotrich lives near the Kedumin settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a house that was illegally built. He first entered the Knesset in 2015, has a history of racially tinged remarks, including calling for segregated maternity wards and saying “illiterate” Arab students were taking the places of others at Israeli universities.
In 2006, he helped organize the “Beast Parade” as part of protests against the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem. In July 2015, Smotrich caused a controversy by declaring in a Knesset Interior meeting that real estate developers in Israel should not have to sell homes to Arabs. In July 2016, Smotrich stated he was “not willing to recognize Reform Jews conversions and their fake religion.”
In April 2018, Smotrich tweeted that Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian serving an eight-month jail sentence for fighting occupation, “should have gotten a bullet, at least in the kneecap.” In June 2019, while pushing to be appointed Justice Minister (just after the previous Justice Minister had been fired) Smotrich stated, “We want the justice portfolio because we want to restore the Biblical justice system,” and that the country should aspire to run itself as “in the days of King David.”