After the United States slammed a video message posted on social media by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Palestinian demands that all Jews be evicted from Yehudah and Shomron constitutes ethnic cleansing, it was the turn of Israeli politicians to comment on the matter. Speaking on Israel Radio Sunday morning, Zionist Camp MK Tzipi Livni said that with the video, Netanyahu had “done great damage to Israel’s claims on Yehudah and Shomron, reversing many of the advances we made during the administration of Ariel Sharon.”
Livni, who was foreign minister at that time, said that she had successfully persuaded the U.S. that mass expulsions of Jews from within the settlement blocs – where some 80 percent of the Jewish residents of Yehudah and Shomron live – is untenable. “The U.S. accepted our claim that removing Jews from the blocs would be impossible,” and even if the Palestinians had not accepted that – demanding that all Jews leave Yehudah and Shomron as a condition for a final-status settlement – “we were able to keep the settlement blocs off the negotiating table, as far as the Americans were concerned.”
In the video, Netanyahu pointed out that just as there are nearly two million Arabs living in Israel, so should Palestinians tolerate Jews living in their midst. “Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: no Jews,” Netanyahu said in a video he posted on social media. “There’s a phrase for that. It’s called ethnic cleansing.”
With his video, Livni said, “Netanyahu has destroyed that concept. If Jews remain throughout Yehudah and Shomron, then there will be no room for a Palestinian state, and that means the end of the two-state solution, the key to which is granting Palestinians their own state, but preserving the settlement blocs for us” with land exchanges within the Green Line.
Without U.S. backing of that idea, however, the Palestinians were likely to continue insisting on their demands that Israel withdraw completely from Yehudah and Shomron, “and now the matter is before the International Court of Justice, with the Palestinians seeking to label all settlements a crime. Meanwhile, Netanyahu releases videos that hurt our cause.
“Besides making videos, has Netanyahu done anything to advance the security of Israel?” asked Livni rhetorically. “I am waiting for someone to answer that.”
Responding to the video, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau cited broad international consensus that regards the building of the Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron as an “obstacle to peace. 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.
“We have repeatedly expressed our strong concerns that trends on the ground continue to move in the opposite direction” of a two-state solution, Trudeau said. Israel’s actions “raise real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”
But taking a different tack was Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said that “Netanyahu was not talking about ethnic cleansing per se; he was just repeating what the Palestinians say about this matter. The Palestinian leadership demands that its state be free of Jews as a precondition for negotiations. That’s exactly what they say and that is exactly what ethnic cleansing is,” he said.