UN castigates Benjamin Netanyahu for calling efforts to stop illegal settlements 'ethnic cleansing'

The suggestion Palestinians want to remove Israelis from the West Bank at all costs ‘unacceptable and outrageous’, the UN chief said 

Friday 16 September 2016 18:10 BST
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has slammed the claim made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that opposition to Israeli settlements in Palestine amount to “ethnic cleansing”.

In one of the strongest statements he has made on the issue to date, Mr Ban said on Thursday that Israel's “stifling and oppressive” occupation of Palestinian territory “must end.”

Over the past few decades Israel has built communities which are now home to more than 300,000 Israeli citizens in the West Bank, which have been declared illegal under UN law.

In a videoed statement, Netanyahu rejected the idea that settlements are “an obstacle to peace”, going on to point out Israel’s diversity as a multicultural state which includes nearly two million Arab citizens.

“Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews,” he said. “There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing.”

The video was posted to Facebook last Friday. The prime minister has already been rebuked by rights groups and the US State Department for his comments.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Thursday, Mr Ban said he wanted to be “absolutely clear: Settlements are illegal under international law.”

Settlement construction in the West Bank is up 41 per cent for the first half of 2016, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics has said.

The policy remains one of the major stumbling blocks for hopes of a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed in principle to meet for talks in Moscow, but no date has been set.

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