Palestinians demanding the removal of illegal Jewish colonial settlements in the West Bank in order to build their own state on what is left of historic Palestine are in fact seeking the “ethnic cleansing” of Jewish people living in those settlements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly said Friday in one of his most controversial comments yet.
In a video message on his official Twitter account, Netanyahu, speaking in English, said in reference to the removal of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, "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."
Netanyahu, the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, made the comments after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that a future Palestinian state would not permit a single Israeli settler to live within its borders.
The video message also comes after Russian-proposed peace talks seemed to fall apart as Netanyahu said he would only meet with Abbas if the Palestinians had no preconditions such as halting settlement activity.
The Russian official in charge of brokering the talks told Palestinian officials earlier this week that Netanyahu had told him that “peace isn't one of his priorities."
The comments are Tel Aviv’s latest attempt to twist history and use slick propaganda to avoid peace and a solution for the decades-long occupation.
Israel, as well as Palestine, are in fact all-too-familiar with ethnic cleansing and have themselves witnessed it. However, in the land of Palestine those of Palestinian ethnicity have been the sole victims of this crime.
It is a historic fact that the Zionist state of Israel itself was built on the ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Palestinians from the lands and homes they lived in and knew for hundreds of years, further barring them from ever returning to it.
“An Israeli prime minister less brazen and arrogant than Netanyahu would not dare to utter the term 'ethnic cleansing,' given the plank in his own eye … And the reality is razor-sharp,” Gideon Levy wrote in an column for the Israeli left-leaning Haaretz newspaper Sunday.
“The only mass ethnic cleansing that took place here was in 1948. Some 700,000 human beings, the majority, were forced to leave their homes, their belongings, their villages and the land that had been theirs for centuries.
Some were forcibly expelled, put on trucks and removed; some were intentionally frightened into fleeing; still others fled, possibly unnecessarily. They were never allowed to return, save for a few, even if only to recover their belongings.”
Levy further argued that the state of Israel continues to have the cleansing mentality and purpose at its core while it daily carries out “microcleansings” in the West Bank, Negev desert and Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s comments even drew criticism from Israel’s main ally and partner, the United States. After viewing the video clip that was circulated on social media, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said at a briefing in Washington that the Israeli leader's words were "inappropriate and unhelpful."
Most countries view Israeli West Bank settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel rejects this, saying Jews have been living in the territory for thousands of years.
Last week, after Israel approved the building of 284 new housing units in West Bank settlements, the U.S. said the policies could expand settlements in a "potentially unlimited way."