UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “ethnic cleansing” video as an “unacceptable and outrageous” portrayal of people who oppose Israeli settlements in the West Bank, home to more than 2.7 million Palestinians.
Ban told the United Nations Security Council, “Let me be absolutely clear: settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation, stifling and oppressive, must end.” He said Netanyahu’s statement was disturbing.
In a video message posted on Facebook last Friday, Netanyahu said the Palestinians wanted to form a state devoid of a Jewish population and called it “ethnic cleansing.”
The Palestinians hope to establish an independent state in the occupied West Bank along with the Hamas-controled Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Last Friday after viewing the video, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau called the Israeli leader’s words “inappropriate and unhelpful.”
“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,” she said.
Most countries view Israeli West Bank settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel rejects this, saying Jews have been living in the territory for thousands of years.
In addition to its estimate of 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank, the CIA Factbook online cites about 371,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank as of July 2015. Neither figure includes East Jerusalem.
Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said a future Palestinian state would not permit a single Israeli settler to live within its borders.
The “Quartet” sponsoring the stalled Middle East peace process, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations next Thursday, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
The group recommended in July that Israel should stop building settlements, denying Palestinian development and designating land for exclusive Israeli use that Palestinians seek for a future state.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Toni Reinhold