UN chief lambastes Netanyahu for calling opposition to settlements ‘ethnic cleansing’

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu © Sebastian Scheiner
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for comparing those who oppose Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank to advocates of “ethnic cleansing.”

“I am disturbed by a recent statement by Israel’s Prime Minister portraying those who oppose settlement expansion as supporters of ethnic cleansing,” Ban Ki-moon said in a statement, published on the official UN website, referring to a video message posted on Netanyahu’s Facebook account last Friday.

Calling Netanyahu’s remarks “unacceptable and outrageous,” he also stressed that the international community “universally views the expansion of settlements as an obstacle to peace.”

Israel’s prime minister said that he was “perplexed by the notion” that the “Jewish community in Judea and Samaria [the Israeli name for the West Bank] is an obstacle for peace.”"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," he said in his video message.

The UN Secretary-General once again emphasized that “[Israeli] settlements [in the occupied West Bank] are illegal under international law” and demanded an end to the “stifling and oppressive” occupation.

He also sharply criticized Israeli settlement policy by saying that it is “diametrically opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.” “The two-state solution is at risk of being replaced by a one-state reality of perpetual violence and occupation,” he added.

At the same time, Ban Ki-moon said that both sides issued statements that “only perpetuate an environment of mistrust” and slammed Palestinian parties that “choose to praise despicable acts, such as the 1972 terrorist attack against Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics,” saying that he is “appalled” by their stance.

Ban Ki-moon’s comments come following a UN development body (UNCTAD) report, which stated that Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has had a damning effect on Palestine’s economy.

Widespread poverty and unemployment in Palestinian territory can be explained, among other reasons, by the “confiscation of Palestinian land, water and other natural resources,” the report particularly said.

Meanwhile, Israel’s main ally, Washington, also condemned Netanyahu’s statement. US State Department spokeswoman, Elizabeth Trudeau, previously called his words “inappropriate and unhelpful” during a news briefing on September 9. She also stressed that Israel’s rampant settlement construction in the West Bank is “an obstacle to peace.”