PM Netanyahu. (Drop of Light/Shutterstock) (Drop of Light/Shutterstock)
PM Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the Palestinians and the international community for insisting on a Palestinian state that would be ethnically cleansed of Jews. US officials responded, saying his remarks were “inappropriate and unhelpful.”

Israel’s prime minister rejected international criticism of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria on Friday, equating it to “ethnic cleansing” of Jews and insisting the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are not an obstacle to peace, in a video that drew a rare rebuke from the United States.

Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted online that he has “always been perplexed” by claims that Israeli building in Judea and Samaria is “an obstacle to peace.”

He pointed to Israel’s Arab minority, which enjoys citizenship and voting rights.

“No one would seriously claim that the nearly 2 million Arabs living inside Israel, that they’re an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu said. “Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing.”

“It’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous,” he added. “Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?”

“I envision a Middle East where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together side by side in peace. Our region needs more tolerance, not less. So the next time you hear someone say Jews can’t live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications. Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd. It’s about time somebody said it,” he said.

Netanyahu has used this line of reasoning in multiple talks with officials and diplomats around the world.

US: Netanyahu’s Words ‘Inappropriate and Unhelpful’

US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington the administration is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli government” about the video.

“We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization 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. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” Trudeau said.

She said Israel expansion of settlements raises “real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”

Ahmed Majdalani, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, dismissed Netanyahu’s remarks as “lies.”

Efrat

The Israeli community of Efrat in Judea. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“These are silly claims,” he said. “It’s Netanyahu who conducts ethnic cleansing every day in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories by announcing (new) settlement units… The settlements are an ongoing war.”

Israel returned to Judea and Samaria and united its capital Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians want the territory for their future state, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as their capital, and deny the Jews’ ancestral and biblical connection to these lands.

Jews have been living in those areas for centuries, and their presence does not undermine prospects for peace. Israel blames failed peace efforts on Arab denials of the Jewish historical connections to the land.

Some 120 communities have been built in Judea and Samaria, now home to about 400,000 Israeli Jews. Some 200,000 Israeli Jews live in the eastern side of Jerusalem, which Israel annexed and considers part of its eternal, undivided capital.

The Palestinians, along with part of the international community, view Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria as illegal or illegitimate. They claim the growing number of Israelis makes it increasingly difficult to establish their own state in these territories.

“I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others. Societies that respect all people are the ones that pursue peace. Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don’t pursue peace,” Netanyahu said in the video.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff