Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed statements by France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who said that if a two-state solution is not reached, Israel will become an apartheid state.
According to Netanyahu, Le Drian's statements were "cheeky, false and baseless." Netanyahu said, "In Israel all citizens are equal before the law, no matter their ethnicity. This is how it always has been, and always will be. We won't tolerate lies or hypocritical, moral preaching on the matter."
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Le Drian was interviewed for the LCI news network, and claimed that a two-state solution was the only path that could prevent "the danger of apartheid," yet such a solution must be implemented "in small steps."
Le Drian added that "anyone who believed Israeli-Palestinian conflict was in decline has been fooled." Le Drian expressed concern over the clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel and said that the last round of fighting proved the urgency of a diplomatic process.
The disputed issue of apartheid in the Palestinian territories re-surfaced earlier this year after both the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch issued reports stating that Israel as an apartheid state.
Apartheid is deemed a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court. The definition has three elements: an intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another; systematic oppression of the group; and inhumane acts.
B’Tselem's report from January said that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in the occupied West Bank, blockaded Gaza, annexed east Jerusalem and within Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
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Human Rights Watch's report from April examined what it calls an Israeli policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the group claims, this aim is combined with systematic oppression of the Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them, which Human Rights Watch says taken together constitute the crime of apartheid.
Israel adamantly rejects that characterization, saying its Arab minority enjoys full civil rights. It views Gaza, from which it withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005, as a hostile entity ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, and it considers the West Bank to be disputed territory subject to peace negotiations — which collapsed more than a decade ago.