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Palestinian President responds to Netanyahu statements, says Israel guilty of 'ethnic cleansing'

Sept. 12, 2016 11:59 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 20, 2016 6:06 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned on Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent statements accusing Palestinians of attempting to “ethnically cleanse” Jews from illegal Israeli settlements located in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Associated Press, Abbas flipped the ‘ethnic cleansing’ accusations onto Netanyahu, reiterating a point he had made in the past regarding Israeli actions of seizing occupied Palestinian land for exclusive Israeli use, and the displacement of hundreds of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas made the statement during his remarks for the ongoing Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, adding that despite Netanyahu’s remarks, which the United States called “inappropriate and unhelpful,” Abbas remained willing to “continue with the democratic process” by meeting with Netanyahu in Moscow following an invitation from Russia to hold a meeting regarding ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List also said on Sunday in an opinion piece in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, that Netanyahu’s comparison of Palestinian citizens of Israel with illegal Israeli settlers was completely ahistorical, and that it was in fact Palestinians, not Israeli settlers, who have been victims of ethnic cleansing.

Referencing what Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba,” meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic -- the day in 1948 that Israel celebrated its independence as a state -- Tibi addressed Netanyahu, saying that “comparing us [Palestinians] with the illegality of a foreign occupation only reflects your belief that nobody else other than Jews could call this place homeland.”

Netanyahu’s comments came as Israel has come under harsh criticism for a spike in illegal settlement activity in recent months, with plans for thousands of housing units moving forward in various stages in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

While members of the international community rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted farther to the right as many Knesset members have called for an escalation of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, and with some having advocated for its complete annexation.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

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