Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provoked an angry response from the US State Department on Friday when he released a video on social media in which he said the biggest obstacle to peace in the region is the two-state solution, which he described as “ethnic cleansing”.
“I’m sure many of you have heard the claim that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace. I’ve always been perplexed by this notion, because no one would seriously claim the nearly two million Arabs living inside of Israel are an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu said in the video.
“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?” He asked angrily.
“This moment, Jewish children in Judea and 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,” said Netanyahu.
“Societies that respect all peoples 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.”
US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau was asked in Friday’s press conference to respond to Prime Minster Netanyahu’s statements.
“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,” replied Trudeau. “We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful.
“We share the view of every past U.S. administration and the strong consensus of the international community that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace. We continue to call on both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to the two-state solution.”
She then went on to criticize Israel’s “illegal outposts and unauthorized settlement units”.
“This does raise real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank,” Trudeau concluded.
Ahmed Majdalani, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, dismissed Netanyahu’s remarks as “lies.”
“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.”
Ethnic cleansing is defined as the systematic forced removal of an ethnic or religious groups from a given territory with the intent of making it ethnically homogeneous. Despite White House objections, this does seem to be an accurate description of what happened in Gush Katif in 2005, when over 10,000 Jews were forcibly removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip to create an exclusively Palestinian Gaza.
The two-state solution is essentially a proposal to remove the Jews from Judea and Samaria in order to create an exclusively Palestinian State.