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Netanyahu's 'ethnic cleansing' video slammed as 'absurd,' 'inappropriate'

Sept. 10, 2016 7:24 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 18, 2016 6:47 P.M.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP/File Abir Sultan)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sparked outrage after accusing Palestinians on Friday of attempting to “ethnically cleanse” Jews from the illegal Israeli settlements located in the occupied territory, with Knesset member Ayman Odeh calling the prime minister’s comments “absurd.”

“The Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: No Jews. There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing,” Netanyahu said in a video, after comparing Palestinian citizens of Israel to Jewish Israelis residing in the occupied West Bank in contravention of international law.

“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,” he argued.

Odeh, the head of the Joint List of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, called the comparison “an absurd equation between a native minority that has lived on this land for generations -- a people on whose backs the state of Israel was founded -- to the settlers, who moved into an occupied territory against international law and ignoring and violating the rights of the people of the West Bank and Gaza.”

The Knesset member also highlighted similar statements made by Netanyahu promoting what Odeh called the prime minister’s “imagined reality.”

Most recently Netanyahu claimed in a video that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory was for Palestinians’ own benefit, saying, “I, the prime minister of Israel, care more about Palestinians than their own leaders do.”

“This time Netanyahu tries to rewrite history, explaining that the settlements are not a roadblock to peace,” Odeh said of Friday’s video.

“Netanyahu is covering his refusal to make peace with empty talk,” noting that the prime minister “continues to deepen the military regime and the oppression in the territories while persecuting groups within Israel, especially the national Arab minority.”

“(Netanyahu) knows full well that the settlements were built in order to push out entire Palestinian communities from their land and crowd them around the Palestinian cities resulting to the de facto annexation of most of the West Bank.”

Odeh added that Netanyahu’s comments also came in stark contradiction to his continued assurances to the international community that he is committed to the two-state solution.

“At least now no one will believe him,” Odeh concluded.

The US State Department also reacted to the video, with spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau calling Netanyahu's comments "unhelpful" and "inappropriate."

"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,” Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, member of the opposition in the Knesset Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union party said the video had caused the US position to change from accepting settlement blocs to rejecting the entire West Bank enterprise, according to Al Jazeera.

"After Netanyahu's video, the US is saying that all the settlements, including the blocs, are an obstacle, whereas in the past they were recognized," she said in remarks relayed by a spokesman.

Netanyahu’s comments came as Israel has come under harsh criticism for a spike in illegal settlement activity in recent months, with plans for thousands of housing units moving forward in various stages in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

While members of the international community rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted farther to the right, as many Knesset members have called for an escalation of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, and with some having advocated for its complete annexation.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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