Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist Israeli finance minister who’s been given sweeping powers over the West Bank, has said the occupied territory is home to “2 million Nazis,” referring to part of the Palestinian population.
It’s estimated that around 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. The Times of Israel reported that Smotrich made the comments in an apparent reference to two polls that found two-thirds of West Bank Palestinians supported the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel. However, the polls that were referenced surveyed Palestinians living in both Gaza and the West Bank.
The polls also came after weeks of Israel’s brutal bombing campaign and ground incursion into Gaza, as well as a significant uptick in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Based on polling, Hamas did not have much support before October 7 and the Israeli bombardment that ensued. A poll conducted on October 6 found that 67% of Palestinians in Gaza either had “no trust at all” (44 percent) or “not a lot of trust” (23 percent) in Hamas. The same poll found that 73% of Gazans favored a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel.
Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism Party, also referenced “Nazis” in the West Bank in comments on X in response to a Fatah official saying the October 7 Hamas attack didn’t happen in a vacuum. “A reminder to those who have not yet sobered up and think that the Nazis in Judea and Samaria are different from the Nazis in Gaza,” Smotrich said, according to Middle East Eye.
Smotrich, a West Bank settler himself, serves as the finance minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government but was also given a position in the Defense Ministry, where he has the power to approve new settlement construction and make it even more difficult for Palestinians to build new homes.
Describing the views of Smotrich, the AP reported earlier this year that the politician and his supporters “envision a single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea in which Palestinians can live quietly with second-class status or leave.”
As a new Knesset member in 2017, Smotrich published a paper outlining an idea for the full Israeli annexation of the West Bank called the “Decisive Plan.” The plan essentially gives Palestinians three options: leave the West Bank for an Arab country, accept Israeli rule, or resist and be killed.