Israeli PM under fire for "ethnic cleansing" comment

Th United States has criticised his stance

Israeli PM under fire for "ethnic cleansing" comment

Benjamin Netanyahu pictured in 2009 | Image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has courted controversy once again describing Palestinian hopes for their own state devoid of a Jewish population as "ethnic cleansing".

The current Israeli government has pressed ahead with plans for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the disputed West Bank region increasing tensions between the two sides. 

In a video message, Netanyahu said: "I'm sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace. I've always been perplexed by this notion, because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel, that they're an obstacle to peace.

"That's because they aren't. On the contrary, Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace."

"The Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews," continued Netanyahu. "There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is outrageous."

The US state department has criticised the comments, with a spokeswoman saying: “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.”