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‘No such thing’ as Palestinian people, top Israeli minister says

#Palestinian #people #top #Israeli #minister
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A incendiary israeli minister claimed there was “no such thing” as a Palestinian people as Israel’s new coalition government, his hardest line ever, moved forward on Monday with part of its justice system overhaul plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition said it was pushing a key part of the overhaul – which would give the coalition control over who will become a judge or justice – before parliament takes a month-long hiatus next week.

The development came a day after an Israeli and Palestinian delegation at a meeting in Egypt, mediated by Egyptian, Jordanian and US officials, pledged to take steps to reduce tensions in the region ahead of a sensitive holiday period.

It reflected the limited influence the Biden administration appears to have over Israel’s new far-right government and raised questions about attempts to reduce tensions, both inside Israel and with the Palestinians, ahead of a sensitive holiday period.

As the negotiators issued a joint statement, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich gave a speech in Paris claiming that the notion of the Palestinian people was artificial.

“There is no Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language,” he said in France on Sunday evening. He spoke at the of a memorial event for a French-Israeli right-wing activist who denied the existence of a Palestinian nation and advocated the annexation of the West Bank.The lectern was adorned with what appeared to be an image showing the map of Israel which included the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Smotrich’s appearance with the icon was a “reckless inflammatory act and a violation of international norms and the peace treaty” between the two countries.

Later, he summoned the Israeli ambassador over Smotrich’s remarks.

The ultranationalist member of Israel's ruling coalition says there is no Palestinian people.  Finance Minister Smotrich's remark on Sunday (March 19) came hours after efforts to ease tensions between Israel and the Palestinians over the country's controversial plan to overhaul the justice system.
Israel’s new far-right government has fueled tensions.Ronen Zvulun/AP

Ahmed Abu Zaid, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said the Israeli minister’s remarks “deny historical and geographical facts…(and) undermine efforts to bring calm between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement late Monday saying it is committed to the 1994 peace accord between the countries.

“There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom,” the statement said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Smotrich’s remarks were “conclusive evidence of the hardline and racist Zionist ideology that governs parties in the current Israeli government.”

In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the minister’s remarks “certainly cannot be tolerated”.

“I must deplore this unacceptable comment. It’s wrong, it’s disrespectful, it’s dangerous, it’s counterproductive to say these kinds of things in a situation that is already very tense,” Borrell told reporters after chairing a meeting of ministers of foreign affairs. EU Foreign Affairs and Defence. “Can you imagine a Palestinian leader saying that the State of Israel does not exist. What would have been the reaction?

Borrell called on the Israeli government “to disavow these comments and begin working with all parties to defuse tensions.”

A far-right settler leader who opposes a Palestinian state, Smotrich has a history of making offensive statements against Palestinians. Last month, he called for the Palestinian town of Hawara in the West Bank to be “erased” after radical Jewish settlers ransacked the town in response to a shooting that killed two Israelis. Smotrich later apologized after an international uproar.

Her remarks about the Palestinians were reminiscent of those of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir who caused an uproar in 1969. She later told the New York Times that she meant there had never been a Palestinian nation. But critics say the comments continue to tarnish his legacy.

During Sunday’s talks in Egypt, a Palestinian sniper carried out another shooting attack in Hawara, seriously injuring an Israeli.

The new violence, along with Smotrich’s comments, illustrated the difficult challenges that lie ahead in defusing tensions after a year of deadly violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. More than 200 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and more than 40 Israelis or foreigners were killed in Palestinian attacks during this period.

Sunday’s summit came ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this week. The Jewish holiday of Passover is to take place in April, coinciding with Ramadan.

The coming period is sensitive as large numbers of Jewish and Muslim worshipers flock to the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional heart of the conflict and hotbed of violence, increasing the points of friction.

Large numbers of Jews are also expected to visit a key holy site in Jerusalem, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — an act Palestinians see as a provocation.

Clashes at the site in 2021 helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, Israeli police shut down the offices of a Palestinian radio station in East Jerusalem, saying it worked for the Palestinian Authority’s official media, in violation of the 1994 interim agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The AP condemned the closure.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians seek these territories for their future independent state.

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