US slams Israeli PM's video on 'ethnic cleansing' of Jews

PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Netanyahu's online clip accuses Palestinians of wanting to rid the West Bank of Jews

JERUSALEM • US officials condemned a video posted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Palestinians of wanting to commit "ethnic cleansing" by ridding the West Bank of Jews.

Mr Netanyahu asserted that the Palestinians would not allow Jews to live in a future Palestinian state - a charge Palestinians deny.

In his video, he said any demands that Jews leave their West Bank settlements was "outrageous."

"It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous," he said. "Some otherwise-enlightened countries even promote this outrage."

US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau harshly criticised those assertions in a news conference in Washington.

"We obviously strongly disagree with the characterisation that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank," Ms Trudeau said on Friday. "We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful."

Mr Netanyahu's Twitter and Facebook feed introduced his latest video on Friday with the short sentence: "No Jews." In it, he speaks in English (with Arabic and Hebrew subtitles available).

OUTRAGEOUS

It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous.

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, saying in his video that any demands that Jews leave their West Bank settlements was "outrageous".

He begins: "I am sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace. I've always been perplexed by this notion."

Judea and Samaria are the biblical and historical terms many Israelis use for the West Bank. The Jewish communities he refers to are the 200-plus Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, home to about 400,000 residents, including many American Israelis.

Because the West Bank has been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967, the international community calls these settlements "illegal". The United States calls them "illegitimate" and "an obstacle to peace." Israel disputes this.

Mr Netanyahu continues: "Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace... Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: no Jews."

Mr Netanyahu appears to be referring to a 2013 statement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "In a final resolution," Mr Abbas told Egyptian journalists three years ago, "we would not see the presence of a single Israeli - civilian or soldier - on our lands."

Mr Abbas was speaking about how a new Palestinian state would look, but he says "Israeli", not "Jew".

In a blog post on the Foundation for Middle East Peace website, Mr Matt Duss said Mr Netanyahu's claims of ethnic cleansing were incitement - and wrong.

"Palestinian leaders have made clear that Jews can be citizens of a future Palestinian state," Mr Duss said. "But that they will not accept the presence of enclaves of Israeli settlers peppered throughout that state (as, of course, no state would)."

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about a possible meeting between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas in Moscow, brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's Interfax news agency reported the two sides agreed "in principle" to meet, but with no set date.

Mr Robert Danin, former senior US State Department official and peace negotiator, told The Washington Post: "My sense is that by saying there will be 'no ethnic cleansing of Jews' in the West Bank, Netanyahu is positioning himself for possible future negotiation with the Palestinians.

"While showing he is tough, he is also trying to establish a principle: Just as there have been and will continue to be Arab citizens of Israel, so too, should there be the right for Jews to remain in a future West Bank state."

He added: "All this allows him to both solidify his right-wing base, but also reach out to the centre in Israeli politics that wants a two-state solution."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline 'US slams Israeli PM's video on 'ethnic cleansing' of Jews'. Print Edition | Subscribe