Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indefinitely suspended Minister of Cultural Heritage Amihai Eliyahu from the far-right Otsma Jehudit (“Jewish Power”) party. Israeli media report this.
Eliyahu had stated in a radio interview on Sunday morning that a nuclear attack on the Gaza Strip is “an option”.
Eliyahu made it clear during the interview that he is not yet satisfied with the scale of the retaliatory attacks that the Israeli army is currently carrying out in the Gaza Strip. “There are no non-combatants in Gaza,” it said, among other things. The journalist then asked whether, in his view, the solution lay in dropping “some kind of nuclear bomb on the entire Gaza Strip, razing it to the ground and killing everyone.” “That is an option,” was the minister’s response.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office quickly issued a statement criticizing the minister’s statement. “The words of Amihai Eliyahu are disconnected from reality,” it sounds. Eliyahu is also suspended indefinitely as minister. He will no longer attend a cabinet meeting “until further notice”. After the fuss, Eliyahu also reversed his statements. In a response on Twitter, he said that the statement about nuclear weapons should be regarded as “a metaphor”.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid calls Eliyahu’s statement “appalling and deranged” and says his presence in the government damages Israel’s war objectives. He, therefore, believes that a suspension does not go far enough and calls for the minister’s resignation. Israeli media are also critical that Eliyahu is not being fired. Not attending government meetings is a sanction that is of little significance, as full-fledged councils of ministers hardly take place any more.