Israeli minister denies existence of Palestinian identity, prompting US rejection


Far-right Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich denied the existence of a Palestinian people or statehood over the weekend, prompting a rebuke from the United States just weeks after the call for the Palestinian city. be “erased“.

Smotrich, a Jewish nationalist, argued that the idea of ​​Palestinian statehood was invented in the last century in response to the Zionist movement to found modern Israel.

“Who was the first Palestinian king? What is the language of the Palestinians? Has there ever been a Palestinian currency? Is there a Palestinian history or culture? Nothing. There is no such thing with a Palestinian,” Smotrich said at a speech in Paris.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby objected to the comments on Monday, saying they would not help ease tensions in the region.

“We categorically object to such formulations. And it’s extremely useless – again – to try to reduce tensions and try to find a viable two-state solution in the future,” Kirby told Israeli Channel 13. “We don’t want to see any rhetoric, no action or rhetoric – frankly – that may stand in the way or become an obstacle to viable two-state solutionand such a language does it.”

The chairman of the Palestinian Authority called Smotrich’s statements “racist”, calling them “an attempt to falsify history.”

The PA statement asserts that the Palestinian people “has always existed on this earth.”

Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist movement that governs Gaza and calls for the destruction of Israel, also called Smotrich’s comments racist, saying they “clearly reflect the fascist policy of expanding colonial settlements and forcibly evicting the Palestinian people on which the occupying state was founded.” ” in relation to Israel.

The appearance of Smotrich in Paris also caused a diplomatic incident between Israel and Jordan. The podium he stood on was draped in what appeared to be an Israeli flag with an enlarged map of Israel that included the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and most of Jordan.

A spokesman for Smotrich said the flag used at the event he attended was a “decoration” set up by conference organizers and that the minister was just a guest, Reuters reported.

On Monday, Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador to Amman to protest Smotrich’s use of the card.

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “warned of the seriousness of the continuation of these extremist racist acts by the same minister who previously called for the destruction of the Palestinian village of Huwara.” He added that Smotrich’s actions are a violation of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty.

In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted that it was “committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan”, adding that Israel “recognizes the territorial integrity” of Jordan.

Tzachi Khanegbi, head of Israel’s National Security Council, also said he spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi to reaffirm Israel’s commitment to Jordan’s territorial integrity and the Israel-Jordan peace treaty.

Smotrich’s comments came the same day Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to try to ease tensions ahead of the Ramadan and Passover holidays. Among other agreements, both parties committed to “develop a mechanism to deter and counter violence, incitement and inflammatory statements and actions.”

The minister, who also has some authority over the Israeli unit that controls border crossings and permits for Palestinians, has a long history of denying the existence of a Palestinian nation and has previously made controversial statements about them, as well as other issues such as LGBTQ rights. .

Earlier this month, he made incendiary comments, stating that Palestinian city of Huwara in the West Bank “must be erased” after two Israeli brothers were shot while driving through the city. Thereafter, Israeli settlers carried out revenge attacks that resulted in the death of one Palestinian. Smotrich later apologized for the remarks, saying they were made in a “storm of emotions”.

Additional reporting by Ibrahim Dahman from Gaza and Tatiana Arias and Amir Ahmed from Atlanta.