In a recent radio interview, Israeli Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu made a contentious remark when responding to a suggestion about using nuclear weapons against Gaza, saying, “That’s one way.”
“The second way is to work out what’s important to them, what scares them, what deters them … They’re not scared of death,” Eliyahu added.
Eliyahu, who is a member of the right-wing party Otzma Yehudit, had his comments swiftly disavowed by Israeli leadership, who emphasized that Eliyahu holds no position in the war cabinet directing actions against Hamas, nor is he part of the broader security cabinet, the Washington Examiner reported.
“Minister Amihai Eliyahu's statements are not based in reality,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel and the IDF are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents. We will continue to do so until our victory.”
Eliyahu later retracted his statement, clarifying that his reference to nuclear weapons was metaphorical, and reports emerged of his suspension following the controversial comment.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant denounced Eliyahu's statement as “baseless and irresponsible” on X, the social media platform, expressing relief that such individuals do not oversee national security.
The opposition leader, Yair Lapid, has called for Eliyahu's dismissal, arguing that his remarks have insulted the families of Israeli hostages, damaged Israel's international reputation, and jeopardized the war effort's success. Lapid stressed the urgency for Netanyahu to act.
“He offended the families of the captives [being held in Gaza], offended Israeli society, and harmed our international standing,” Lapid said. “The presence of the extremists in the government endangers us and the success of the war goals — defeating Hamas and returning the hostages ... Netanyahu must fire him this morning.”
As detailed by the Examiner, in the same interview, Eliyahu displayed a lack of empathy for Palestinian civilians affected by the conflict, resisting calls for humanitarian aid and making contentious statements about the civilian population in Gaza.
The toll of the conflict has been severe, with the Hamas-run health ministry reporting over 9,000 deaths, including civilians and combatants, since the outbreak of hostilities prompted by Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on October 7.