Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a call by a senior cabinet member for the deletion of a Palestinian village was «inappropriate», days after it sparked an international outcry.

“It is important that we all work to tone down the rhetoric and cool down,” Netanyahu said in a Twitter thread, four days after Bezalel Smotrich, his finance minister, said the town of Hawara should be destroyed by the Israeli state. .

In what appeared to be his first public response to Smotrich’s comments since he made them on Wednesday, Netanyahu did not appear to condemn the minister’s words.

Instead, he implied that Smotrich misspoke and thanked him for retracting the comments and «making it clear that his choice of words» was «inappropriate.»

Smotrich, who heads the far-right ultranationalist Religious Zionist Party, was widely condemned after he told a journalist from Israel’s 13 News that he thought «the village of Hawara should be wiped out.» He also said that he thought «the state of Israel needs to do it.»

His comments came after he liked a tweet calling for Hawara to be «wiped out» in the wake of an attack by a Palestinian gunman last Sunday that killed two brothers, Hillel Menachem Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv, of 19, who lived in the Israeli settlement of Har Bracha, some 5 miles away.

Hundreds of settlers, some with knives and guns, then swept through Hawara, setting houses and businesses on fire. A 37-year-old Palestinian man, Sameh Hamdallah Mahmoud Aqtash, was killed by Israeli gunfire, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Hawara is a town of 7,000 Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Surrounded by settlements, it is often a focus of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Unlike cities like Ramallah which are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Hawara is mainly under Israeli security control.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news conference Wednesday that Smotrich’s comments were «irresponsible» and «disgusting» and said the United States was calling on Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to «reject and repudiate publicly and clearly these comments».

The European Union representative’s office in Jerusalem described Smotrich’s comments as «unacceptable and intolerable,» and they were also condemned by United Nations and Middle Eastern powers Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Smotrich, a leader of the settlers, later retracted, saying he did not want the village wiped out but rather for Israel to operate inside it surgically against Palestinian militants.

Yet Netanyahu’s coalition government, the most right-wing in the nation’s history, promised settlement construction in the West Bank as its central goal when it seized power in December.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, during the Six-Day War in 1967. Since then, it has maintained an indefinite 55-year occupation of the West Bank.

In Sunday’s Twitter thread, Netanyahu also criticized the Palestinian Authority for failing to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israelis and the international community for failing to demand condemnation from Palestinians.

Israel has long claimed that the international community has double standards in its expectations of its government and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu’s comments come as his ruling coalition faces its ninth straight week of anti-government protests. Across Israel, tens of thousands of protesters turned out on Saturday to oppose a proposed overhaul of the country’s legal system, which critics fear will weaken the Supreme Court, limit the judiciary and threaten democratic institutions.

Associated Press contributed.

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