Abbas Counters Netanyahu, Accuses Israel of 'Ethnic Cleansing'

Palestinian president has made the accusation in the past, but is now responding to Netanyahu's claim that the removal of Israelis from West Bank is type of 'ethnic cleansing.'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Credit: Ronen Zvulun , AP , Mohamed Torokman, Reuters
Jack Khoury
The Associated Press

The Palestinian president is accusing Israel of "ethnic cleansing," days after Israel's leader lobbed that same allegation at the Palestinians.

President Mahmoud Abbas has made the claim against Israel in the past. But his remarks late Sunday came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted West Bank settlements were not an obstacle to peace and that Palestinians wanted the "ethnic cleansing" of Jews in the West Bank.

A video Netanyahu released in which he says Palestinian leaders want their future state to be ethnically cleansed of Jews.

Netanyahu's comments drew a harsh rebuke from the U.S., which said such terminology was "inappropriate and unhelpful."

In his remarks for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, Abbas said he was prepared to continue with the "diplomatic process" and was ready to meet Netanyahu to discuss peace following an invitation to both leaders to meet in Moscow.

Abbas said Israel was isolated diplomatically for "refusing to advance a single step toward peace," and continuing to build settlements.

"The Palestinians don't merely follow a policy of launching test balloons about peace, but take real steps to carry it out," Abbas said.

"Before these holy days, poisonous winds are coming from Israel's directions in an attempt to break us, but actually turned us stronger and more fateful to ourselves and more resolved, our internal unity remains strong and will not fall because of a campaign," he said.

U.S.-brokered peace negotiations collapsed in 2014.

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