Amichai Eliyahu’s remarks have sparked widespread condemnation in Israel and Palestine alike
Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu has suggested that his country could launch a nuclear strike on Gaza. The controversial remarks caused outrage across the Israeli government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspending Eliyahu indefinitely.
In a Sunday interview with Radio Kol Berama, when asked if Israel could drop an atomic bomb on the Palestinian enclave, the minister, who is a member of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, replied that “this is one of the possibilities.”
Eliyahu also spoke out against helping inhabitants of the enclave, which has been under Israeli siege for several weeks now, arguing that “we wouldn’t hand the Nazis humanitarian aid,” and that “there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza.”
Shortly after the controversial remarks, Netanyahu announced that the minister had been suspended from all government meetings. Writing on X (formerly Twitter), his office quoted him as saying that “Eliyahu’s statements are not based in reality,” adding that Israel is “operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant condemned what he called Eliyahu’s “baseless and irresponsible words,” adding in a post on X that “it’s good that these are not the people in charge of Israel’s security.”
Those remarks were echoed by opposition leader Yair Lapid, who called Eliyahu an “extremist” and pointed out that his statement “caused harm to the families of the hostages, Israeli society, and our international standing,” urging Netanyahu to fire the minister.
The minister’s remarks also did not go unnoticed by Hamas, which launched a surprise attack on Israel last month. It stated that the comments are an “expression of the occupiers’ Nazism and [their] genocide practices,” which came after Israel’s “military failure in the face of the [Palestinian] resistance”.
Meanwhile, Eliyahu attempted to control the damage, insisting that “it’s clear to anyone with a brain that the remark about the atom was metaphorical.” He maintained, however, that Israel “must display a forceful and disproportional response to terror,” adding that this approach will show “the Nazis and their supporters that terrorism isn’t worthwhile.”
Israel has never publicly confirmed or denied having nuclear weapons. However, it is widely believed to have possessed such arms since the late 1960s. According to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimate, the nation has a total of 90 warheads.