Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at calls for Israelis to accept an “ethnic cleansing for peace” deal with the Palestinians, who have long demanded any settlement expel Jews from Palestinian territories.
“I’m sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu said in a video. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that the United States is “concerned that things might be moving in the opposite direction given, on the one hand, and we’ve expressed our concern about this, ongoing Israeli settlement activity, but equally, we’ve been troubled by the fact that — or by the incitement to violence.”
“I’ve always been perplexed by this notion” of settlements being the problem, Netanyahu said. “Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they’re an obstacle to peace. That’s because they aren’t. On the contrary.”
“Israel’s diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace. Yet 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.”
The prime minister added that “it’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous.”
“Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage. Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?” he said. “At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends. Does their presence make peace impossible? I don’t think so.”
“I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others. Societies that respect all people are the ones that pursue peace. Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don’t pursue peace.”
Netanyahu said he envisions “a Middle East where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together side by side in peace.”
“Our region needs more tolerance, not less,” he continued. “So the next time you hear someone say Jews can’t live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications.”
“Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd. It’s about time somebody said it. I just did.”
Netanyahu just visited the Netherlands, where a member of Parliament from Turkey, Tunahan Kuzu, refused to shake the prime minister’s hand. Kuzu was wearing a Palestinian flag pin on his lapel at the time.