Members of the Israeli opposition slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday over his "ethnic cleansing" video, accusing him of spinning the current political deadlock for his own good as well as twisting the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
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In a video message released by Netanyahu on Friday, the prime minister said that Palestinian leaders want a future state to be ethnically cleansed of Jews. Netanyahu said that the demand to remove settlements from a Palestinian state is outrageous.
“It’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous,” he stated. “Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.”
Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh accused Netanyahu on Saturday of trying to "rewrite history" by comparing settlers to Arab citizens of Israel.
"The prime minister of Israel decided to go a step further in creating an imagined reality," Odeh said.
"In his last video, he explained to us that in fact, he cares for the Palestinians who live in the occupied territories and that actually the occupation is for their benefit. Now he's trying to rewrite history by explaining that the settlements aren't an obstacle to peace and even compares the Arab minority in the state to the settlers.
"He is comparing a native minority that has been living here for generations upon generations, on which the State of Israel was imposed, to settlers who were transferred to occupied territory in violation of international law while blatantly violating the rights of the West Bank and Gaza," Odeh said.
Netanyahu "is using a new term for him – ethnic cleansing – because it doesn't matter to him that the settlements were established precisely in order to cruelly push Palestinian communities out from West Bank territories to limited areas near the big cities," Odeh continued. "It is the settlement system that led to the de facto annexation of most West Bank territories."
MK Tzipi Livni said on Saturday that Netanyahu's video undermines her diplomatic achievements concerning the settlements.
"With one video that was meant for Likud or Republican ears, Netanyahu destroys the achievements I made during the Sharon era – that the [settlement] blocs would be a part of Israel, that there would be no [Palestinian] right of return and that a separation fence be built," Livni said a political forum in Holon.
"After Netanyahu's video, the U.S. asserts that all the settlements, including the blocs, are an obstacle [to peace], while in the past" the blocs were recognized as part of Israel," she said.
The United States responded with anger to Netanyahu's video, seeing his message as aimed at American policy concerning the settlements.
"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," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said. "We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful."
MK Erel Margalit (Labor) chimed in that Netanyahu was sacrificing relations with the Americans for his own political survival.
“He doesn’t care about Israel’s national interest of reaching a two-state solution and averting a binational state,” he said. “Instead of blaming the Americans of promoting ‘ethnic cleansing’ and deepening the rift with the United States, Israel should be lead a proactive approach with the United States in coopting regional states.”
Margalit said such an approach would preserve the settlement blocs with land swaps and avoid giving hope to isolated settlements and outposts located in the midst of the Palestinian population.
“Netanyahu’s attitude undermines the possibility of a solution and in fact brings us closer to the point of no return of a binational state,” he said.
“In any settlement, the vast majority of settlements will have to be evacuated, and Israel will carry out land swaps. Netanyahu, too, knows and recognizes this. The video is part of his attempts to throw sand in the settlers’ eyes by blaming the United States. The man who specialized in inciting one part of the public against the other is doing it again,” Margalit said.