The Jerusalem Post reports Netanyahu’s Likud party bowed to a demand from the far-right, religious Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party to appoint Ayelet Shaked, a rising Bayit Yehudi star in the Knesset (parliament), as justice minister in the newly-formed 61-member coalition government. Shaked’s appointment is raising eyebrows because she is not a lawyer and because of inflammatory social media posts in which she advocated the extermination of the Palestinian people.
Shaked, 39, made international headlines last July when she posted a highly controversial unpublished article by the late Uri Elitzur, a close Netanyahu ally and an early leader of the movement by Jewish settlers to colonize occupied Palestinian territories, on her Facebook page. The post asserted that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and advocated genocide against the entire nation, “including its elderly women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” Some excerpts:
“The morality of war… does not condemn… the US planes that destroyed the cities of Poland and wrecked half of Budapest, places whose wretched residents had never done a thing to America, but which had to be destroyed to win the war against evil… nor the NATO forces who bombed Milosevic’s Belgrade, a city with a million civilians, elderly, babies, women and children… [nor] what America has done in Afghanistan, including the massive bombing of populated places, including the creation of a refugee stream of hundreds of thousands of people.”
“And in our war this is sevenfold more correct, because the enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight. Behind every terrorist stands dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers… they should follow their sons [to hell], nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
The day after Shaked’s inflammatory post, Mohammed Abu Khudair, a 17-year-old Palestinian, was kidnapped in Jerusalem by Jewish extremists and burned alive in an apparent revenge attack for the murder of three Israeli teens by Palestinian militants.
Shaked took exception to the Hebrew to English translation of her post, claiming, correctly, that the Daily Beast, one of the mainstream media outlets that broke the story in the United States, incorrectly attributed Elitzur’s genocidal screed to her, and also accusing Daily Beast author Gideon Resnick of “deliberately distortions” in a lengthy rebuttal that offers no evidence to support her claim. In media interviews, Shaked denied calling Palestinians “little snakes” and advocating their extermination, although her excuse was that she merely re-posted Elitzur’s words and did not write them herself.
Shaked’s Facebook post received 5,000 ‘likes’ and catapulted her into the international spotlight as an example of the dangers of incendiary hate speech during times of crisis. Amid the uproar, one of her earlier Facebook status updates—this one in her own words—was revealed:
“This is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. The reality is that this is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people.”
These incendiary remarks came as Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day air, land and sea campaign targeting Hamas rockets and militants in the tiny, densely populated Gaza strip. According to the United Nations, 70 percent of the more than 2,000 Palestinians killed during the Israeli offensive were innocent civilians.
Shaked’s commentary drew a harsh rebuke from Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who compared her to Adolf Hitler and noted that “if these words had been said by a Palestinian, the whole world would have denounced it.”
The appointment of Shaked to justice minister came as Netanyahu completed the formation of a new, hard-line coalition government on Wednesday after reaching a deal with Bayit Yehudi just ahead of a midnight deadline. Netanyahu narrowly averted a disaster that would have forced him from office less than two months after parliamentary elections, but his appointments also all but guarantee further tensions between Israel and its main benefactor, the United States, which has been increasingly frustrated and embarrassed by Netanyahu’s hawkish stance toward the Palestinians and Iran and his continued support for Jewish settler colonization of occupied Palestinian land. Both the occupation and the settlements are illegal under international law.
Other key Israeli allies, including the European Union, are also angered by continued Jewish settlement expansion, which some critics—including former US president Jimmy Carter—have called a form of apartheid. Others, including former United Nations human rights official Richard Falk, an American Jew, have gone further and accused Israel of ethnic cleansing.
Shaked isn’t the only member of the new Israeli government who has made highly controversial comments about killing Palestinians before. In 2013, economy minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett boasted that he had “killed lots of Arabs” during his lifetime, most notably as commander of a company of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops who massacred 106 Lebanese civilians during the 1996 shelling of a UN compound sheltering refugees in Qana. Shaked’s selection as justice minister is a direct result of intense lobbying by Bennett.
Palestinian leaders were quick to denounce the move as well. Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat told Agence France-Press that the new Israeli government “will be one of war which will be against peace and stability in our region,” adding that “this government will set its sights on killing and reinforcing settlement activities.”
Shaked’s appointment has angered not only Palestinian but also many progressive Israeli observers. Nachman Shai, a Knesset member representing the centrist Zionist Union, which lost its bid to unseat Likud in the March elections, told Arutz Sheva that Bayit Yehudi’s “demand to give Ayelet Shaked the Justice portfolio is like giving the Fire and Rescue Services to a pyromaniac.”