Settlements no obstacle to peace: Israel's Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday claimed that Jewish settlements built on occupied Arab land in the West Bank did not constitute "obstacles" to an eventual peace settlement with the Palestinians.

"I am sure that many of you have heard the claim that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria [in the] West Bank are obstacles to peace," Netanyahu declared in a video statement.

He went on to allege that the Palestinian leadership sought a Palestinian state on the condition that it was "a state without Jews".

"There is a phrase for this," Netanyahu said. "It’s called ethnic cleansing."

Palestinian officials have yet to comment on the Israeli prime minister’s assertions.

International law views the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement building on the land to be illegal.

Some 500,000 Israelis currently live on more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the territories in 1967.

The Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- along with the Gaza Strip -- on which to eventually establish an independent state of Palestine.

But Palestinian negotiators insist that Israeli settlement building on occupied Arab land must stop before a comprehensive peace deal can be reached.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau, addressing Netanyahu’s comments, said: "We 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.”

She also said the Israeli leader’s remarks were "inappropriate and unhelpful.

"Settlements are a final status issue that must be resolved in negotiations between the parties,” she said.

She underlined that Israeli settlement activity is "an obstacle to peace.”

"We have repeatedly expressed our strong concerns that trends on the ground continue to move in the opposite direction,” she said.

According to Trudeau, Israelis have advanced thousands more settlement in the West Bank this year as well as "illegal outposts and unauthorized settlement units” have been legalized.

She said more West Bank land has been overtaken for "exclusive Israeli use” and more than 700 Palestinian structures have been demolished by Israel which resulted in the displacement of more than 1,000 civilians.

"As we have said many times before, this does raise real questions about Israel's long-term intentions in the West Bank,” she said.

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Last Modified: 2016-09-10 08:06:04
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