UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday expressed disapproval with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Palestinians want the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews in the West Bank.
Ban responded to a question about the Israeli premier’s remark saying the UN has repeatedly said Israeli settlements “are a violation of international law” and Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory “should be resolved as soon as possible through negotiations.”
Ban stressed the importance of a two-state solution since Israelis and Palestinians will remain neighbors and should negotiate a way to live side-by-side in peace and security.
The Obama administration last week described as “inappropriate” Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinian opposition to settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”
“We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.
Netanyahu’s controversial comment came via a video message posted on his Facebook page, in which he asked whether people in other parts of the world would accept demands for the removal of a specific ethnic group in their own countries.
I'm 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.Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they're an obstacle to peace. That's because they aren't. On the contrary.Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace. Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing.And this demand is outrageous.It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous. Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends.Does their presence make peace impossible?I don’t think so.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.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.I just did.
Posted by Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו on Friday, September 9, 2016
It’s “outrageous that the world doesn’t find it outrageous,” Netanyahu said, urging viewers to ask themselves whether they would accept “a territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks” in their nation. “Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?” he asked.
In the video posted last week to Facebook, Netanyahu also likened residents of the settlements to Arabs born in Israel, which drew harsh criticism from Arab-Israeli lawmakers.
MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint (Arab) List, accused Netanyahu of creating “an imaginary reality” and rejected the comparison between Israeli Arabs and Jewish West Bank settlers, whom he said were the ones implementing a policy of “ethnic cleansing.”
“Netanyahu doesn’t care that it is the settlements that were established precisely in order to cruelly expel Palestinian populaces from the West Bank to limited territories around the major cities,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday night.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday also criticized Netanyahu’s recent video, arguing Israel was the one committing “ethnic cleansing,” and was under international isolation for its refusal to pursue peace with the Palestinians.
“Israel is isolated internationally because it is not willing to take even one step toward peace. It continues [building] settlements, desecrating holy sites and ethnic cleansing,” said Abbas.
While most fumed of Netanyahu’s remarks, an adviser to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign backed up Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinian demand for a removal of settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”
“The prime minister of Israel correctly observes that the Palestinian demand to remove all Jews from their ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria is nothing short of an attempt at ethnic cleansing,” David Friedman, a longtime lawyer to the Republican presidential nominee and an adviser on Israel to his campaign, told Haaretz on Sunday.
The International community considers Israeli building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal. Jerusalem argues the status of West Bank settlements is subject to a final peace deal with the Palestinians.
Israel began building settlements in the West Bank after it captured the territory, previously controlled by Jordan, in the 1967 Six Day War. Today, over 350,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements and outposts and another 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel considers part of its territory.
The secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday also expressed his “very deep concern” about the health of former president Shimon Peres, who suffered a stroke on Tuesday and is currently listed in serious condition, though doctors said there has been improvement since his initial arrival in hospital.
AP contributed to this report.