In a heated exchange on Wednesday with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that settler terrorism and the rise in violence and vandalism by settlers in the occupied West Bank is “simply a lie”.
In response to Amanpour addressing the problems of Israeli police storming Al-Aqsa Mosque, considering it is the world’s third-holiest site for Muslims, Bennett responded: “There you go again starting the story in the middle.”
Bennett claimed the Israeli forces raided the mosque after rocks were hurled at the occupation forces.
“My responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to provide freedom of prayer for everyone in Jerusalem, including Muslims, which is why I had to send in policemen to remove the rioters and it worked,” he said.
“When faced with violence you have to act tough,” he added.
However, Amanpour noted the concerns expressed by the Israeli head of Central Command, Major General Yehuda Fuchs, to the New York Times in February, regarding “settler terrorism” following a rise in violence and settler attacks in the occupied West Bank, which he oversees.
“The West Bank has been occupied since 1967, settlers are allowed to be there. It is a minority, I know that, but they are there and they are violent, this minority,” she said.
The CNN anchor then raised Fuchs’ concerns, which Bennett labelled, as “blatantly false”.
“What you’ve been projecting is blatantly false,” he said. “It’s a lie, simply a lie.”
“No, sir, you cannot say that to me,” she responded. “You cannot tell me I’m lying.”
“Well, you’re misrepresenting the facts. I said a tiny minority, and I object [to] the symmetry that you’re trying to create here,” he said.
“There’s no symmetry. I’m talking about your own generals,” said Amanpour.
Tensions have been running high across the Palestinian territories since the beginning of April amid repeated Israeli arrest campaigns in the occupied West Bank.
Daily settler incursions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to celebrate the week-long Jewish Passover holiday have further inflamed the situation.
However, Bennett claimed, there are less than several hundred Israelis who attack Palestinians, adding that Palestinians are murdering Israelis.
“I also object, these are not occupied territories, they’re territories in dispute, and we have claimed our own place as well as them.”
“The problem is that the Palestinian leadership is totally corrupt, incompetent, so we have to do the job because there’s no one to work with on the other side, and indeed, we’re adding jobs, better jobs, but at the end of the day, my utmost responsibility is to provide security to the Israeli people.”
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It annexed the entire city in 1980, in a move never recognised by the international community.