Netanyahu’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ video earns strong rebuke from State Department

Elizabeth Trudeau of the State Department

Today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted another of his English language videos about the conflict. This one said that those who want to create a Palestinian state are seeking “ethnic cleansing” of Jews from the occupied territories, and some enlightened countries are supporting this program.

Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a state with one precondition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that, it’s called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is 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 peace?… I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others.

And the State Department was quick to slam the prime minister today, and it included descriptions of the actual ethnic cleansing, that of Palestinians. Shades of a new assertiveness by the Obama administration in its waning days?

MS [Elisabeth] TRUDEAU: So we have seen the Israeli prime minister’s video. 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. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful. Settlements are a final status issue that must be resolved in negotiations between the parties. We share the view of every past U.S. administration and the strong consensus of the international community that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace. We continue to call on both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to the two-state solution.

We have repeatedly expressed our strong concerns that trends on the ground continue to move in the opposite direction. Let’s be clear: The undisputed fact is that already this year, thousands of settlement units have been advanced for Israelis in the West Bank, illegal outposts and unauthorized settlement units have been retroactively legalized, more West Bank land has been seized for exclusive Israeli use, and there has been a dramatic escalation of demolitions resulting in over 700 Palestinian structures destroyed, displacing more than 1,000 Palestinians. As we’ve said many times before, this does raise real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.

QUESTION: So you’re not a big fan of the video, I take it?

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: So have you made your – not you personally, but has the Administration made its feelings clear to – other than your comments just now to the Israelis?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes. We are engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli Government on this.

QUESTION: And I mean, is there anything that you can do? I mean, he said this; he apparently believes it and it’s a pretty strong sentiment. You – even though disagree with it, I mean, what have you asked him to do? I mean, have you asked him to walk it back at all or —

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to get into our diplomatic discussions. What I would say is: unhelpful, it’s inappropriate. We’ll have our conversation with our Israeli allies and friends and we’ll see where that goes….

Notice the reference to Israeli house demolitions and displacement of 1000 Palestinians. That’s a start.

Thanks to Yakov Hirsch and Scott Roth, who tweeted: “ are you a serious person? All evidence suggests you’re not.”