Far-right Israeli MK and former Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich described the birth rate among the Bedouin community in Negev as a "demographic time bomb" that should be "defused", Israeli media reported on Thursday.
The Times of Israel reported Smotrich stating that there are some 200,000 Bedouins in the Negev desert who "double themselves every 12 years" due to high birthrates, adding that "it's something that needs handling."
Haaretz reported him warning: "It is a bomb that must be handled. If we don't defuse it, it will blow up on us much stronger."
He added: "The more Western you make them, the more the birthrate will come down," stating that his goal was "to maintain the Jewish majority, not just in Israel, but in the Negev."
The member of the Jewish Yamina Party argued that this was: "The vision of [David] Ben-Gurion, not of Yamina," referring to the first Israeli prime minister.
Arab MK Ahmed Tibi responded to Smotrich in a tweet written in German: "He describes the settlers who carry bombs as children and the Bedouin children as a demographic time bomb… His racist remarks came just one week after the murder of Eyad Hallaq by the Israeli police just because he was an Arab and Palestinian."
Meanwhile, Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List party, wrote on Twitter: "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."
Odeh's remark was in reference to Smotrich's arrest prior to the 2005 Gaza disengagement by the Shin Bet security service. 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. However, he was released without charge.
The Joint List MK Heba Yazbak described Smotrich as a "racist" who never missed a chance to incite hatred against Arabs.
On Twitter, she wrote: "It's not the birthrates that should bother Smotrich but rather the desire of [Arab] society to get rid of the national supremacy policy he represents."