Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The call to halt settlement activity is not analogous to “ethnic cleansing,” United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday, as he attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making the comparison.
“I am disturbed by a recent statement by Israel’s prime minister portraying those who oppose settlement expansion as supporters of ethnic cleansing,” Ban told the UN Security Council in New York during a debate on the Middle East that included the Palestinian question.
“This is unacceptable and outrageous,” he said.
It is not the first time Ban has used his platform to target Netanyahu, the only leader in the region he mentioned by name.
In a video released last week, Netanyahu said, “the Palestinian leadership demands a Palestinian state with one precondition, no Jews. There is a phrase for that, it is called ethnic cleansing
“At this moment Jewish school children in Judea and Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends. Does their presence make peace impossible?” he asked.
Ban, in an apparent reply to those comments said, “Let me be absolutely clear, settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation – stifling and oppressive – must end. The international community, including the Security Council and the Middle East Quartet, universally views the expansion of settlements as an obstacle to peace.”
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon sharply responded that Ban had a “distorted view of the situation in Israel. The obstacle to peace begins and ends with Palestinian incitement, terrorism and the refusal of Abu Mazen to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
“Instead of directly condemning Hamas for building tunnels and a terrorist infrastructure, instead of investing resources in stopping Palestinian incitement and terrorism, the secretary-general has chosen to regularly condemn Israel,” he said.
At the Security Council, though, Ban chastised both Israeli and Palestinian leaders for “failing to take difficult steps for peace.”
He took issue with the possible delay in Palestinian elections and with the launching of missiles from Gaza into Israel.
He added that the Palestinian parties have chosen to “praise despicable acts, such as the 1972 terrorist attack against Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
That kind of glorification is “disgraceful and the Palestinian leadership must put an end to it.”
He noted that this week marked 23 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, which was supposed to herald a two-state solution but which – more than two decades later – is still elusive.
“Unfortunately, we are further than ever from its goals,” Ban said.
“The two-state solution is at risk of being replaced by a one-state reality of perpetual violence and occupation.”
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