ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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In letter to Blinken, Gulf Arab FMs slam Smotrich for remarks on Palestinians

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends breakfast with the foreign ministers of Gulf Cooperation Council nations during the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 23, 2022. (David Dee Delgado/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends breakfast with the foreign ministers of Gulf Cooperation Council nations during the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 23, 2022. (David Dee Delgado/Pool Photo via AP)

As Israel’s relationships with its Arab partners show signs of turbulence, the foreign ministers of the six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council send a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemning Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for recent comments about Palestinians.

Smotrich said a week ago that the Palestinian people were “an invention” from the last century and that people like himself and his grandparents were the “real Palestinians.”

Earlier this month, the minister — a senior figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition — stirred international outrage after calling to “wipe out” a Palestinian town in the West Bank following a deadly Palestinian terror attack that killed two Israeli brothers, which was followed by a deadly settler rampage. He later walked back the comment and apologized.

The Ministerial Council – made up of the GCC foreign ministers – met in Riyadh and in their joint statement “condemned the racist statements of the Israeli Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, which called for the destruction of what remains of the Palestinian village of Hawara.”

They also blast Israel for “repeated incursions by Israeli settlers into the courtyards of the Holy Al Aqsa Mosque”; settlement construction; military raids in the West Bank; expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem; and “attempts to change [the] legal character, demographic composition, and arrangements for Islamic holy places.”

The letter urges Blinken to “respond to all measures and statements that target the Palestinian people,” according to the UAE-based The National.

Israel established full diplomatic ties with two GCC countries — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — in 2020, and officials regularly express hope about the chances of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia and Oman as well, though both countries have not shown any indication that they are about to make such a move. The organization body also includes Qatar and Kuwait.

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