(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Facebook saying that calls for a Palestinian state without Jews amount to “ethnic cleansing.”
“[T]he Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews,” Netanyahu says in the video, released Friday. “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.”
Netanyahu used the “ethnic cleansing” charge to counter claims, made by critics of Israel’s presence in the West Bank, that the Jewish settlements there are an “obstacle to peace.”
Netanyahu also noted that the Jewish state includes Arab citizens. “No one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel — that they’re an obstacle to peace,” he says.
The video, released in Hebrew and English versions as well as one with Arabic subtitles, is distinctly directed to an audience outside of Israel. “Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?” he asks. “Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?”
Last month, a United Nations special envoy condemned Israel for continuing to build in West Bank settlements and neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.
Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, criticized Israel for going against the recommendations of the Mideast Quartet, the diplomatic group including the United Nations, the United States and others.
The Quartet called on Israel in June to stop building in the settlements and on the Palestinians to halt incitement.
Americans for Peace Now, in statement sent to JTA, rejected Netanyahu’s argument that the demand to remove settlements is tantamount to “ethnic cleansing,” instead calling the removal of Jewish settlements “a necessary step to achieving a two-state solution.”
“One day, when there is peace and a Palestinian state established alongside Israel, we can all hope that Palestine will be welcoming to people of all faiths. If it is not, we can work to change that,” said Lara Friedman, the director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now. “Until then, the settlements are and will remain an obstacle to peace – not because their inhabitants are Jewish, but because that was what the settlements were always intended to be.”