(JTA) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon blasted a statement by Israel’s prime minister saying that evicting Jews from a future state of Palestine is ethnic cleansing.
On Wednesday, Ban said the statement made last week by Benjamin Netanyahu was “unacceptable and outrageous.” His remarks came during a meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”
Calling West Bank Jewish settlements an obstacle to peace, Ban said they are in violation of international law and their growth must be halted.
“I am disturbed by a recent statement by Israel’s Prime Minister portraying those who oppose settlement expansion as supporters of ethnic cleansing. This is unacceptable and outrageous,” Ban told the U.N. Security Council. “Let me be absolutely clear: Settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation, stifling and oppressive, must end.”
In the video released Sept. 9 in English, Netanyahu likens residents of the settlements to Arabs born in Israel.
“No one would seriously claim that the nearly 2 million Arabs living inside Israel – that they’re an obstacle to peace,” he said. “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 precondition: no Jews. There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing.”
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.”
Ban also condemned Palestinian attacks on Israel and decried what he called Palestinian “glorification of terror.”
“I continue to be appalled that Palestinian parties choose to praise despicable acts, such as the 1972 terrorist attack against Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics,” the UN leader said. “The glorification of terror is disgraceful and the Palestinian leadership must put an end to it.”
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak also publicly lambasted Netanyahu on Thursday for “reckless behaviour” that has “undermined Israel’s security.” In an op-ed published Thursday in The Washington Post, Barak argued that Israel could have received far more than the $38 billion in U.S. military aid it agreed to on Tuesday if Netanyahu had not meddled in the American debate over the Iran nuclear deal.
“The damage produced by Netanyahu’s irresponsible management of the relations with the White House is now fully manifest,” Barak wrote.