Israeli Minister’s Nuclear Threat on Gaza Spurs Outrage
Israel’s Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu has sparked outrage after suggesting nuclear bombing Gaza was “one of the possibilities” for responding to rocket attacks. Amichai Eliyahu of the far-right Jewish Power party made the provocative remarks in a radio interview.
Eliyahu advocated using atomic weapons on the besieged Palestinian enclave, callously claiming no civilians remained there. He told Israel-based Radio Kol Berama that “nuking” Gaza is “one of the possibilities”.
When it was pointed out to the minister that there are some 240 hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip, Eliyahu doubled down.
“I pray and hope for their return, but there is a price to be paid in war,” he said. “Why are the lives of the abductees, whose release I really want, more important than the lives of the soldiers and the people who will be murdered later?”
Eliyahu also said the northern part of the Strip has no right to exist, adding that anyone waving a Palestinian or Hamas flag “shouldn’t continue to live on the face of the earth.
In another controversial statement, the far-right minister objected to sending humanitarian aid to Gaza. “We wouldn’t hand the Nazis humanitarian aid… there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza,” the minister told Radio Kol Berama.
When asked about the fate of Palestinians, he said: “They can go to Ireland or deserts, the monsters in Gaza should find a solution by themselves.”
Minister Amichai Eliyahu later backtracked as condemnations mounted, and took to social media platform X, formerly Twitter, to say that his comments were “metaphorical”.
He added: “However, a strong and disproportionate response to terrorism is definitely required, which will clarify to the Nazis and their supporters that terrorism is not worthwhile.”
The minister was later suspended from government meetings indefinitely, Israeli media reported, citing a statement by the prime minister’s office.
The bellicose rhetoric from Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist coalition raises many alarms both internally and externally.
Netanyahu was quick to reject Eliyahu’s claim that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was a possibility.
“Amichai Eliyahu’s words are detached from reality,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Israel and the IDF are acting in accordance with the highest standards of international law in order to prevent harm to uninvolved people, and we will continue to do that all the way to victory.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 5, 2023
Minister Amihai Eliyahu's statements are not based in reality. Israel and the IDF are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents. We will continue to do so until our victory.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also condemned the “baseless and irresponsible” remarks in a post on X, adding he was glad “these are not the people in charge of Israel’s security.”
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid called on Netanyahu to fire Eliyahu, branding his comments “a horrifying and insane remark by an irresponsible minister.”
“He offended the families of the captives [being held in Gaza], offended Israeli society and harmed our international standing,” Lapid said. “The presence of the extremists in the government endangers us and the success of the war goals — defeating Hamas and returning the hostages.
“Netanyahu must fire him this morning,” the opposition leader said.
“He offended the families of the captives, offended Israeli society and harmed our international standing,” he added.
This comes as criticism mounts over Israel’s onslaught in Gaza following failures to prevent Hamas’ initial attack. Over 9,400 Palestinians have perished, predominantly civilians including thousands of children massacred in strikes violating international law.
The haunting scenes of carnage broadcast globally can be described as nothing less than genocide to most rational observers. Israel has moved far beyond reasonable self-defence or proportionality. The bloodshed and devastation reveal a calculated effort to collectively punish Gazans through brutality, regardless of cost to innocents.
The moral bankruptcy of obliterating entire families and neighbourhoods exposes the lie behind claims of ethical adherence. No military necessity justifies the slaughter of children or targeting refugee camps and hospitals. Such grave atrocities defy any code of warfare or basic humanity.
The bombs may fall on Gaza, but it is Israel’s values that lie buried in the rubble. No professed ideals survive this descent into unconscionable barbarism justified by any pretexts.
Who is Amihai Eliyahu?
Eliyahu is the scion of a prominent national-religious family — the grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, and the son of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of the northern city of Safed and a leading far-right ideologue.
Eliyahu’s father has been known for controversial statements and rulings on Jewish law, including one that forbade the rental or sale of Jewish-owned property in Safed to Arabs. He has also criticized the Reform movement, the LGBTQ community, and women serving in IDF combat units.
Meanwhile, far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich asserted Saturday that Israel “will control Gaza after the war.”
“I will not invest a shekel in shielding the Gaza border area,” said Smotrich, implying that it will not be necessary after the conclusion of the war.
“The most important thing is that there will be no more Hamas, that the Strip will be under the operational control of the IDF for years, and that we will not return to the same misconceptions,” he told Channel 12. “We will be there, we will rule there and we will maintain security.”
Eliyahu belongs to Itamar Ben Gvir’s far-right party and is the grandson of Mordechai Eliyahu, the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel. He is not part of the war cabinet nor does he have a say in the war-time decision making, according to The Times of Israel. Eliyahu, who heads the Organisation of Community Rabbis, a rabbinical group, served in the Paratroopers Brigade during his IDF service.
Wars have a habit of Spiralling out of control
History teaches us that wars have a relentless habit of spiralling out of control, leaving a trail of chaos in their wake. They often begin in fury and pride, yet end in regret and ashes.
Israel launched its campaign after Hamas carried out attacks in southern Israel, reportedly killing some 1,400 people and taking some 240 hostages. In response Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas and has since bombarded Gaza, claiming efforts to minimize civilian casualties – however, those efforts ring hollow given the mounting death toll.
An estimated 10,000 Palestinian civilians have now perished amidst indiscriminate strikes and a devastating ground invasion. Israel’s actions contradict its professed principles as the far-right advances unchecked. The humanitarian catastrophe exposes the gulf between its rhetoric and reality.
The Israelis ordered the evacuation of northern Gaza, a region inhabited by 1.1 million people, roughly half of the territory’s population, all within a tight 24-hour window, as reported by a U.N. spokesperson.
This so-called evacuation decree by the Israeli military impacted a staggering 1.1 million individuals, essentially compelling the entire population of the territory to squeeze into the southern half of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israel continues its strikes across the region, including in the southern areas.
Now hundreds of thousands remain trapped as bombardment continues. Israel cannot abdicate responsibility for safeguarding innocents. Its claims of moral adherence grow increasingly divorced from observations on the ground.
Israel claims adherence to international law and morality even during harsh retaliation. But events increasingly suggest otherwise. Lacking external accountability, the state grows unmoored from ethical codes it demands from enemies. Its friends must speak difficult truths before a new nadir is reached.
Amidst this bloodshed, Eliyahu’s nuclear threat highlights the dangerous extremism taking root in halls of power. Such rhetoric fundamentally contradicts Israel’s supposed principles. Deliberately targeting civilians for mass extermination cannot be justified by any pretext.
Yet tensions simmer as the far-right advances its agenda barely checked. The judicial reforms sparking mass protests also undermine democratic ideals of constraint. Without moderation to counter demagoguery, a destructive spiral looms.
The world can no longer accept threadbare arguments that demolishing civilian infrastructure somehow protects the vulnerable. Nor should Israel’s defiance of global opinion be tolerated endlessly. Its friends must speak truth – killing innocents undermines, rather than champions, democratic values. The question remains is there still time to reject the destructive path of belligerence before a point of no return is crossed?